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“I realised how drastically his life had changed”

Emergency
Bangladesh

HI physiotherapist, Farhana, works in Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh, which has become one of the largest refugee settlements in the world. Ibrahim is one of more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees who fled when violence broke out in Myanmar in August 2017 and one of many who sustained life-changing injuries. Farhana shares her experience of meeting Ibrahim and the progress they have made.

Farhana and Ibrahim after a physiotherapy session | © HI / P. Poussereau

The first time I met Ibrahim was very difficult. After several weeks lying in bed, unable to move, he was very frustrated and had lost all hope. He was withdrawn, uncooperative and would not even try to sit up.

Ibrahim is a Rohingya from Rakhine state in Myanmar. He ran from his village when it was attacked in August but he was caught, severely beaten and left for dead. The attack caused serious damage to his spinal cord, leaving his lower body paralysed.

During that first meeting, I realised how drastically Ibrahim’s life had changed. Just a few months earlier, he had been a healthy shopkeeper able to provide for his wife and two children. Now, he found himself lying under tarpaulins and completely dependent on his family. I knew that we were starting a long journey together and that providing psychological support would be just as important as the physical care.

Now, two months on, I really look forward to seeing Ibrahim and I know how important my visits are for him. Progress is slow, which is normal, but he is very motivated and keen to practice the exercises I have shown him.

Last month, HI provided Ibrahim with a wheelchair and we have been working together to build the strength in his core and arms so that he can balance and push himself. Simply being able to leave his shelter, to buy a few things and chat with neighbours, has made a huge difference to his health and mood; we joke together now and talk about the future.

This has been my first experience working in a refugee context and, at times, I have found the conditions very challenging. Seeing Ibrahim’s progress and the difference my colleagues and I are making to his life is what motivates me every day.

A team of 300 HI staff and volunteers has been responding to the urgent needs of Rohingya refugees since the outbreak of the crisis in August 2017.

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