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Reema, Iraq: “I dream of returning home”

Emergency
Iraq

Reema is 72. She is from Gogjali, a village located near the city of Mosul. Three weeks ago, she fled the fighting and arrived in Khazer camp for displaced people, with her family. Suffering from several illnesses, she only survives with their help. Handicap International’s emergency team paid her a visit. 

Reema with her granddaughter Dhoha in their tent in Khazer camp.

Reema with her granddaughter Dhoha in their tent in Khazer camp. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International

When Handicap International’s team knocks on the door of Reema’s tent, they are greeted by a young woman dressed in a long coat. Dhoha invites the physiotherapists inside and gently explains: “You should meet my grandmother. She needs you.”

Sitting on a thin mattress on the floor, Reema invites the organisation’s professionals to make themselves comfortable. “I have diabetes and arthritis. I can’t walk anymore and I’m exhausted,” she says as the team settles in. Dhoha sits next to her grandmother and rubs her back to keep her warm.

Reema asks her granddaughter to light the stove to heat the tent a little. The wind whistles loudly as the team examines Reema.

“The last two years have been horrific,” she says sadly. “Not a day has gone by without tears. It’s bitterly cold here, especially at night. But at least we’re not afraid anymore.”

My children and grandchildren took it in turns to push me in my wheelchair

Reema explains how she fled her home before arriving in the camp a few weeks ago. “It was very hard,” she explains. “We left on foot. My children and grandchildren took it in turns to push me in my wheelchair. Dhoha is with me all the time. She’s a big help,” she adds, looking affectionately at her granddaughter. “It makes me happy to do it, grandma,” the teenager replies.

Handicap International’s team then enquires after Reema’s health. “I feel a little better here than in Gogjali. I’m less tired,” she says. “I have been sleeping at last and I think that helps.”

The old woman admits that she finds her lack of mobility hard to cope with and she still suffers from pain in her knees. Salam, our physiotherapist, gives her tips on how to feel better. He also shows Dhoha some daily rehabilitation exercises to do with her grandmother. He also says he’ll bring a wheelchair and a walking frame for Reema, so she can move around the camp more easily.

Before the team leaves, Reema shares her hopes with them. One day, she would like to return home with the rest of her family. “And this time, I will be the one taking care of them. I’ll start by cooking them a nice meal,” she says. 

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