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“I can walk again”

Emergency Rehabilitation
Iraq

In 2009, Widad and other members of her family were injured by a car bomb, in Iraq. Five years later, the arrival of armed groups in Jalawla forced her to flee. Since returning home, Handicap International has been providing her with physiotherapy care and, thanks to the organisation’s rehabilitation sessions, Widad can now walk again.

 Ola stands next to her mother, Widad, during a physiotherapy session organised by Omar.

Ola stands next to her mother, Widad, during a physiotherapy session organised by Omar. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International

This morning, Omar, a physiotherapist, and Haider, a psychosocial worker, are visiting Widad in Jalawla. Several years ago, this young mother was injured by a car bomb while at the market. Her sciatic nerve was damaged and she was immediately taken to the nearest hospital, where she was operated on a dozen times. Widad has been unable to walk properly since. “The head of the village told us about her a few months ago,” explains Omar. “We went to see her straight away and offered her rehabilitation care.” Since then, the organisation has helped Widad get better.  

Omar begins a series of exercises with her, in the presence of her caretaker and husband, Amer. “In this session, we’re going to strengthen the muscles in Widad’s right leg and show her husband how to do these sorts of exercises when we’re not here,” says the physiotherapist. “We have previously given Widad some crutches, a toilet chair and a bed to make her life more comfortable.” 

Omar tells Widad that he has got something else that’s really going to help her. He gets an orthosis out of his bag and puts it on Widad’s leg. “It’s going to change her life,” he says with a smile. The physiotherapist then invites the young woman to get up and walk, initially using her crutches. Widad doesn’t look very confident but tries her best. She soon realises that her orthosis supports her right foot, positioning it correctly on the ground, and she picks up speed. As she walks over the lawn, her face breaks into a grin. “It won’t be long before she can get rid of her crutches,” adds Omar. 

Although she has only taken a few steps, the orthosis is crucial for Widad. A few years ago she found it very difficult to move around. “The hardest part was when we had to flee our city, back in 2014,” she says. “We left at night and in the panic I forgot my crutches. Fortunately we didn’t have to walk the whole way, otherwise I would never have made it.”

Widad and her family took refuge in another city, in their governorate. “There were 27 of us living in a single room for nearly two years. Life was really hard over there,” she says. “Then, last February, we came back to Jalawla. They’d looted our home and broken our windows. The last few years have been really tough for me.”

At the end of her physiotherapy session, Widad thanks Omar for his help. “I couldn’t get up before or walk. So it feels like I’ve made a lot of progress. I think I’ve got more options now than I did before. I can walk again, I can support my family. It’s tough in Jalawla and I want to help my husband meet my family’s needs. I can prepare sweets and sell them. I love cooking!” Omar is delighted: “When I see people thinking about the future and moving forward, it reminds me why I do this job,” he says. 

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