"Will my legs grow back?"

A nine year old Iraqi boy does physical therapy exercises with an HI physical therapist

While lying in his hospital bed, Baker turns to his father and mutters softly, “It hurts, dad. It really hurts.” Just a few days prior to March 21, nine-year-old Baker was playing in the streets with his friends in Mosul when they were hit by a bomb. Baker lost both of his legs.

“Will my legs grow back?” Baker asks Karam, a psychosocial worker with Handicap International. Since his accident, Baker has been in a stake of shock and still has pain. The painkillers don’t keep him from thinking about what happened. “He still hasn’t accepted the situation,” Karam explains. “Baker tells me that he’s been having a lot of nightmares.” 

Handicap International works in Hamdanyiah and Qayyarah, two hospitals on the outskirts of Mosul, providing patients with rehabilitation care. In addition to providing Baker with psychosocial support, our teams are providing him with physical therapy so he can soon be fitted for prostheses. 

“I’ve visited Baker every day since he arrived at the hospital,” says Fatima, a Handicap International physical therapist. “I use our sessions to help him get used to his situation. It’s going to take him time to accept it, but I’m hopeful. Baker is still a child and children usually find it easier to adapt.”

Fatima blows up a balloon for Baker to use for his session. The physical therapist wants him to understand that he can still move around, laugh, and play, despite his new condition. “I love playing and studying,” Baker says. Baker hasn’t been able to attend school for the past two years, since the Islamic State group captured the city. “When I grow up I want to be an architect,” he says. “I want to rebuild all of the houses that have been destroyed and help people.” 

During his session, Baker shares his hopes with our team. He dreams of being able to walk and stand tall one day. He wants to go back to Mosul and see his friends. But for the moment, his greatest wish is to be in less pain. 

Mosul emergency: Fighting between armed groups and government forces in Iraq in recent years has displaced more than three million people. An estimated 11 million civilians already need humanitarian assistance in the country. The Mosul offensive has presented international organizations with an unprecedented challenge. More than 485,000 people have fled the city since last October.

Handicap International and the Iraqi crisis: More than 200,000 people have benefited from Handicap International’s actions since the launch of its emergency operations in Iraq in 2014. Our actions are regularly reviewed to take into account a highly volatile situation across the whole of Iraqi territory. Handicap International currently organizes population protection activities, raises awareness of the risk from mines and conventional weapons, conducts non-technical surveys and clears potentially hazardous areas, provides physical and functional rehabilitation and psychosocial support, supports health centers, organizes training and advocacy, and provides technical support to partners to enhance the inclusion of vulnerable people (people with disabilities, casualties, older people, and others) within their services.