"It's very hard, but at least we don't live in the street"
Like nearly one in ten people in Iraq, Hamed had to flee his home because of fighting in his town. His leg was amputated following an injury and he now lives with his wife in conditions of extreme hardship. The couple receives psychosocial support from Handicap International, which also provides Hamed with rehabilitation sessions.
Hamed and his wife sit in their makeshift shelter in Kirkuk. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International
"Imagine it is summer and you’re just sitting in your garden. You’re enjoying the cool night air, surrounded by your family and neighbours. Seconds later, your life has changed forever, but you don’t understand how. That’s what happened to us nearly two years ago,” explains Hamed, during one of Handicap International’s team’s visits. Sitting on a bed given to him by the organisation, he tells his story to Hareth, physiotherapist, and Zahra, social worker.
“That night, in August 2014, the Islamic State group entered our town. The security forces tried hard to push them back. Our house was in the middle of the fighting, and things got worse very quickly. Something landed on us and exploded. I passed out and I woke up in the hospital, a few days later, with my leg amputated.”
When he regained consciousness, no one dared tell Hamed that six members of his family had died that night. Only his wife was sitting next to him, devastated by what had just happened to them. When they got out of hospital, the couple rented a small apartment, but their savings quickly ran out. Their neighbours got together to make sure the couple didn’t end up homeless. Hamed and his wife moved into a small room, made of four concrete walls. Conditions are very basic and they have no furniture, electricity or windows. It is very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter, because the room is badly insulated. “It’s really hard, but at least we’ve got a roof over our heads, and we don’t live on the street,” says Hamed.
It was also his neighbours who alerted Handicap International and talked to the organisation about Hamed. “We regularly go from door to door, in various neighbourhoods, to identify people with disabilities or injuries,” explains Hareth, physiotherapist. “When we heard about Hamed, we went to see him. We gave him a toilet chair, a bed and a mattress - equipment to make his daily routine easier.” According to Zahra, social worker: “He and his wife are obviously in a state of distress. That’s why we suggested they take part in psychosocial support sessions. It is a good sign that they accepted. During the group sessions, they meet people who are in the same situation as them and they talk with them...”
As the visit draws to a close, the couple walks the organisation’s professionals outside. Like most displaced people, Hamed and his wife dream of going home again. But before they can, they will have to rely on the support of their neighbours and Handicap International. Hareth and Zahra will therefore be back soon to continue providing Hamed and his wife with all the assistance and support they need.