I want him to be more independent - Improving access to physiotherapy in Iraq
Awyar, 6, was born with cerebral palsy. His father, Razgar, plays an active role supporting his little boy in the rehabilitation sessions organised by Handicap International.
Razgar shows Hardi the exercises he does with his son every day. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International
At the foot of the tall mountains on the border between Iraq and Iran, a boy is standing with his father in front of a large house. In the distance, Awyar and Razgar, who are holding hands, seem to be one and the same person. As the car in which the Handicap International team is travelling draws closer, the boy and his father walk slowly towards the vehicle.
Awyar has a smile on his face and looks impatient to start his session with Handicap International’s physiotherapist. The father and son invite Hardi into their home. Awyar and Razgar walk at the boy’s pace, their hands still clasped together.
“My son’s always with me. It’s simple: where I go, he goes,” explains Razgar, looking affectionately at Awyar as he makes himself comfortable in the living room.
"I realised that my son couldn't move his right arm"
Hardi starts by asking Razgar to show him the exercises he has been doing with his son since their last session. Awyar’s father concentrates hard as he goes through the physiotherapy exercises and Awyar laughs gleefully when he looks at him.
“Razgar takes his son’s situation very seriously, which is probably why he’s making so much progress. And you can tell Awyar is really enthusiastic when we arrive for a session,” explains Hardi, who shows Razgar some new exercises to improve Awyar’s flexibility and balance.
While his son follows the physiotherapist’s instructions, his father recounts: “When Awyar was born, we had no idea anything was wrong. The doctors didn’t say a thing and everything seemed normal. But a few days after his birth, I realised that my son couldn’t move his right arm and I got worried. I consulted dozens of doctors, who all had different explanations. It took a year to find out what was really wrong with Awyar. When we realised he had cerebral palsy, we started the physiotherapy straightaway.”
Once he was sure of son’s condition, Razgar decided to devote himself to his well-being, even taking him to the neighbouring governorate several times a month, where Awyar could get the best care available.
A huge step forward
At the start of the year, Handicap International launched its activities in the governorate of Halabja, as part of its “Naseem” project. The aim is to improve access to services for people with disabilities in Iraq. Since then, Razgar doesn’t need to spend hours on the road to make sure his son benefits from physiotherapy sessions. Now, Hardi comes straight to them.
The session continues and Razgar shares his hopes for Awyar: “Before Handicap International began coming to our home for these sessions, my son’s movements were very slow and he didn’t move around much. Now he can walk a little, he can eat and go to the bathroom by himself: it’s a huge step forward.”
“I’d like him to go to school soon but we live in a mountainous region and the buildings are difficult to access. There are stairs everywhere and it’s a complicated environment for Awyar. But I get him to climb up and down the steps in front of our house every day, to get him used to it.”
“I want him to be more independent, that’s why it’s really important to me that he goes to school. Although he can’t express himself fully yet, his smile always reassures me, and it makes me so happy to see him make progress.”
The physiotherapy session comes to an end and Awyar comes to sit on his father’s lap. He looks admiringly at Hardi while the physiotherapist tidies away his equipment. Razgar explains: “I think my son would like to be a doctor one day too.”
About the project
Handicap International launched its “Naseem” project in Iraq in 2014, and extended its work into the governorate of Halabja in early 2016. The aim of the “Naseem” project is to improve access to services for people with disabilities in Iraq. As part of its community-based rehabilitation (CBR) activities, the organisation has deployed several mobile teams, including voluntary workers, to ensure that the local population is able to benefit from physiotherapy sessions, even in the most isolated areas of the country.
Discussion groups have also been organised, awareness-raising campaigns implemented and national service assessments made as part of the “Naseem” project. To make sure that the project is a success, Handicap International has formed partnerships with more than 40 disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in six governorates in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan: Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Dohuk, Halabja, Kirkuk, and Baghdad.