Determined to walk again

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“Are you ready to walk today?” Fatima, a Handicap International physical therapist asks 11-year-old Abdel Hamid while checking the external fixations on his leg. Abdel’s face lights up with a smile. “You think I can?” he asks. Fatima winks at him, points to a pair of crutches she brought especially for him, and asks him to sit on the edge of the bed. He swivels slowly sideways on the mattress, getting ready to make his move.

Abdel's only wish is to walk again. Last month, Abdel was injured in an attack in Mosul as he was playing on the roof of his home. Since then, he has passed through the surgery departments of several hospitals. Now in recovery, he finds it difficult to make even the slightest movement. But Abdel is determined to get back on his feet and puts a lot of effort into his rehabilitation exercises. As he gently lowers his feet to the floor, Fatima kneels, level with him and gives him a few words of encouragement.

“When I met him, he found it really difficult to move even a few inches,” Fatima continues. “He would lay in bed all the time. But he’s made amazing progress since we started the physical therapy sessions. Two days ago, I got him to take a few steps with a walker. Today, I want get him to use his crutches. He’ll walk without mobility aids one day, but unless we help him now, he might develop a limp.” 

The physical therapist patiently tells Abdel to take his time and not to worry about his injury. To help him focus, she asks him about his future goals. “I want to be a doctor, like you,” Abdel says. “That way, I can care for injured children too.”

He places one foot on the floor and then another, and then takes hold of the crutches, under the affectionate gaze of his father. Fatima walks beside him as he heads toward the corridor, the first time leaving his room since he arrived. The other patients in the hospital see him walking and start cheering him on which gives Abdel the biggest smile. 

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.