Abdallah: “I’d like to go out and see my brothers again”
Abdallah, 11, was injured in a bombing raid in Syria. He is now paraplegic and lives with his mother, brothers and sisters in a shelter for refugees in Lebanon. Since he arrived in the Beqaa Valley in September 2015, he has been supported by a Handicap International team* who are helping him to gradually recover and meet the new challenges he is facing.
Abdallah and Cynthia during a physiotherapy session, Lebanon | © Elisa Fourt / Handicap International
“It was Eid. We were out with my son doing some shopping to prepare for the celebrations,” explains Farida, Abdallah’s mother.
“He was always very helpful and insisted on coming with me. When we reached the souk’s main street, everything happened so quickly; just after we noticed the aeroplanes, the bombing started.
A lot of people around us died. When I lifted my head, Abdallah was on the ground and he looked terrified. At first, I thought he had thrown himself onto the floor because he was frightened by what was going on. But then I understood that he had also been hit.
We took him to the closest hospital so he could be treated but he was only operated on ten or so hours after he arrived.
The following day they told me my son would never walk again.”
Gaining Abdallah's trust
Cynthia, Handicap International’s physiotherapist, begins the rehabilitation session with Abdallah in the family’s bedroom. She decides to start with a few stretching exercises for his arms and legs. Abdullah seems unwilling and worried at first. He still suffers a lot, both physically and psychologically.
Little by little, Cynthia manages to gain his trust. He relaxes and even smiles a little when the physiotherapist does a high five.
Abdallah takes part in a physiotherapy session. Lebanon.
© Elisa Fourt / Handicap International
“I’d like to go out and see my brothers again”
As she continues Abdallah’s therapy, Cynthia explains his situation: “We have supported Abdallah since he arrived in Lebanon. His family lived in various places in the Beqaa valley, then moved to this shelter for refugees in Marj."
"Here, Abdallah’s mother doesn’t have to pay rent anymore, which she can’t afford because she’s alone with five children. The only problem is that the family lives in the only available room on the fourth floor of the shelter.”
Abdallah cannot go outside at the moment. “I’d like to go out and see my brothers again,” he adds shyly.
"They tell me that people are dying every day, and that we were right to leave.”
Two of Abdallah’s older brothers have stayed behind in Syria, along with his father. Farida has not had any news from her husband for several months, however she is comforted by calls from her sons with whom she has managed to keep in touch.
“We call each other a lot. They tell me there’s not enough food and they are still being bombed. They tell me that people are dying every day, and that we were right to leave.”
As the physiotherapy session continues, Cynthia gets Abdallah to do some exercises to help develop the muscles in his arms. Handicap International has given Abdallah a wheelchair so he can move around more easily. He used to be very active and his favourite hobby was horse-riding.
“We had a horse on our farm in Syria,” he says. “But he’s dead now. The neighbours ate him because they were hungry.” Our house has also been flattened by bombs.”
"I want to do everything I can to make sure he has a bright future"
Farida listens carefully to her son and shares her concerns: “Our situation is so different now, but I want to do everything I can to make sure he has a bright future. I want my children to go to school at the start of the next school year.”
For the moment, Abdullah spends his days indoors playing cards and other games with his brothers and sisters. He looks at his mother and adds; “I’m looking forward to going back to school too...”
“A few months ago, Abdallah didn’t want to even think about school,” says Cynthia. “I’m glad to hear that he’s looking forward to going back. That means he’s made progress.” Abdullah smiles, does another high-five, and his thirteenth physiotherapy session comes to an end.
Abdallah will continue to be given physiotherapy sessions by Handicap International’s staff, which will enable him to become more independent. He will also shortly start counselling sessions to help him come to terms with what has happened to him.
* Project funded with the support of ECHO (European Union)