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Amira’s first steps

Supporting the Displaced Populations/Refugees
Iraq

Amira is 11 years old. In March 2017, she was injured in a bomb attack in Mosul, and has suffered from a broken leg ever since. She lives with her family in Hasansham camp for displaced people, where Handicap International (HI) is providing her with rehabilitation care.

Amira is 11 years old. In March 2017, she was injured in a bomb attack in Mosul, and has suffered from a broken leg ever since. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International

Amira is lying perfectly still and silent on a mattress, moving only occasionally to brush away the flies that buzz erratically above her head. When Handicap International’s physiotherapist, Mohammad, arrives for her rehabilitation session, she keeps her eyes firmly shut and refuses to speak to him. It takes a little while for Mohammad to set her mind at rest and to gain her trust. “I meet a lot of children like Amira,” explains Mohammad. “Some are still deeply traumatised by what they’ve been through over the last few years. Others suffer too, but from their injuries alone. They’re frightened that the physiotherapy exercises are going to hurt. The first sessions are the most important part of my work because the children need to see me as their ally - someone who’s going to help them recover with time.”

Amira finally opens her eyes. A shy smile crosses her face. Mohammad manages to convince her to do a few movements to assess the seriousness of her condition. Because her leg still hurts a lot, she finds the first exercises difficult. “She should have recovered a long time ago,” explains Mohammad. “It doesn’t take that long for a broken leg to heal. But Amira can’t even walk. What made things much worse was the fact that she wasn’t given proper care and for so long.”

 

"We were under siege”

Although Amira was injured in March, she was only given the right treatment in June, when she reached the camp. “We were at home when we were hit by a missile,” says her father, Hamid. “One of the walls fell on top of Amira and she was seriously injured. We were taken to Mosul hospital and stayed there for a few days, but the care was really basic. Then we stayed in the city for three more months. We were under siege and couldn’t escape. We were all living in a small room without food or water, waiting for an opportunity to flee. Imagine living for three months like that...”

Hamid pauses for a moment to help his daughter. With Mohammad’s help, he supports Amira as she stands up and tries to walk with the crutches given her by HI. “It’s only the second time in three months she has stood on two legs,” he explains.  "Amira’s muscles and tendons are still badly affected,” adds Mohammad. “And her foot is now seriously deformed. But we’re going to carry on with the exercises so she can walk. First of all with the crutches and then, at some point, without mobility aids.”

At the end of her physiotherapy session, Mohammad adds: “I’m also going to ask my psychologist colleague to meet Amira. It’s essential she overcomes her fears and that her family understands why their support is an important part of her recovery.” As Amira sits back down on her mattress, she turns to Mohammad and asks: “And you, when are you coming to see me again for another session? ”

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