“I see my daughter improving every week”
Afra, 7, was born with cerebral palsy. Handicap International’s team has been providing her with support for a month. By helping her improve her range of motions, the organisation is making the little girl’s daily routine easier. Handicap International’s assistance to Syrian refugees in Lebanon is supported by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection service (ECHO).
Dari watches as her daughter, Afra, receives physiotherapy care | © E. Fourt / Handicap International
“We got here in January,” explains Afra’s mother, Dari. “My husband died as we were fleeing our neighbourhood, which was targeted repeatedly over the years. I decided go on alone with my children to Lebanon. That’s where I met with Khalid, an old friend, who has been living here since the start of the conflict. We’ve just got married.”
Since she arrived in the Beqaa Valley in January 2016, Afra has been living with her younger brother, her mother and her stepfather in a small apartment. Every week, the family encourages Afra by accompanying her to her rehabilitation session at the HI center.
Afra is not the only one benefitting from Handicap International’s support: Khalid, her stepfather, also takes part in a weekly rehabilitation programme. Following an accident on a building site, Khalid is now paraplegic. He has been equipped with orthoses and needs crutches to move around. He’s highly motivated and making a lot of progress. However, his disability now prevents him from working in the construction industry, so he earns a living selling cotton candy in the street. This casual work allows him to earn just enough to meet his family’s needs.
Afra is still totally dependent on her mother to do everyday things. At the age of 7, the little girl is unable to eat or drink by herself. Handicap International’s work aims at improving her physical condition and making her and her family more independent. “I can see her improving. She can keep her head straight for a few minutes now,” explains her mother, not without pride. “Without our help, without physical stimulation, her condition would only get worse,” explains Mohammad, Handicap International’s physiotherapist.
“If she didn’t do these exercises, her limbs and joints would get worse very quickly. Afra will not be able to walk, but we hope that she’ll be able to sit up unaided, one day. Her life and that of her family would be transformed!” Today, Mohammad is working with Afra on her seated balance using a ball, an exercise that aims at strengthening her back muscles.
Support for the whole family
Similarly to all such kind of cases that have been followed by Handicap International, Afra’s family is taught simple rehabilitation techniques so that she can continue to do her rehabilitation exercises at home. Afra’s parents also benefit from psychosocial support sessions run by our team. “Living with a child as dependent as Afra requires a lot of courage and patience, so we give parents the encouragement to build up their self-confidence. That’s essential,” explains Mohammad.
The organisation also provides them with assistive device; a stroller supplied by Handicap International allows Afra to join her mother on outings. “Her world used to be confined to the four walls of our apartment. Now, at the age of seven, every day Afra discovers the world around her. She’s very curious,” explains her mother.