The Handicap International (HI) centre in Mafraq is crowded with patients. Dozens of women, men and children are waiting patiently for their consultation. Everyone is here for the same reason: the organisation’s second prosthesis and orthosis workshop of the month.
Some have come to try on their new prosthesis, while others are going to have their measurements taken for an orthopaedic device or a new pair of medical shoes. But one young woman stands out from the rest. In fact, Naayem is impossible to miss. It isn’t her artificial leg, visible under her long dress that first catches your eye - it’s her infectious smile and welcoming eyes. If the 35-year-old Syrian doesn’t look as anxious as the other patients, it’s because she’s used to this kind of situation. “I lost my leg nearly three decades ago and I’ve changed prosthesis many times over the years. For me, it’s sort of routine now,” she says.
When Naayem was a still a child, back in Syria, she was involved in a serious accident. One day, she was playing outside her home when a water tank fell on top of her. “They rushed me to hospital. I was there for a month. The doctors had to amputate my leg to save my life. I was really young – it didn’t take me long to get used to my prosthesis. I was still growing, they changed it roughly every year.”
Naayem had no problems accessing care before the war. “In 2013, I decided to flee with my husband and children. We got in our car and just drove to Jordan. We didn’t want to live in the middle of the fighting – it was getting worse every year.” Naayem ended up in Zaatari refugee camp with her family, where she was given information on services available in the country. “Your organisation was on the list. I got in touch with you because my prosthesis was in a bad state and I couldn’t walk properly anymore. Your team took my measurements and quickly fitted me with a new one.”
Four years later, Naayem left the camp and moved to the city of Mafraq. Her prosthesis needs to be changed again, which is why she has returned to the workshop today. “I’m waiting for them to take my measurements,” she says patiently. When her turn comes, Aya, an orthopaedic-fitting specialist, greets her with a broad smile. She examines Naayem’s leg and prepares the mould for her new prosthesis.
Naayem will need to wait several weeks before she gets her new prosthesis. As a mother of six children, it will make her life easier, she says. Her daughter has come with her to the workshop and, after thanking the organisation’s team, Naayem takes her hand before heading back to the modest shelter she shares with the rest of her family, near the Syrian border. After nearly seven years of conflict, she doesn’t know if she’ll ever go back to her country. “Whether it’s here or there, we have nothing left. To be honest, it’s really hard to think about the future. But at least with my new leg I can keep moving forward, until better times,” she says before leaving the centre