Lebanon: Empowering the Most Vulnerable Families


Each day is a struggle for the Syrian refugees eking out this winter in Lebanon’s windswept Bekaa Valley. However, for extremely vulnerable families like Iman’s, survival hinges on the generosity of others.

Three years ago, Iman lost her husband in a bombing raid in Syria. "I was pregnant with my youngest son when my husband died,” says Iman. “It is really hard to think that he will never know his father." Desperate to protect her five children, Iman fled to Lebanon. "W­e now live in a house with 32 other people,” says Iman. “My husband’s cousin looks after us. We owe him everything right down to the food we eat and the mattresses we sleep on.”

Her three older children, Mirnaz, 16, Hazar, 13, and Ahmad, 10, suffer from a neuromuscular disease which severely limits their mobility. For most of their time Lebanon, the children have been house bound and unable to play or interact much with others.

Several weeks ago, Handicap International Physical Therapist Abeer Ameen found the family and realized that Mirnaz, Hazar, and Ahmad could be more independent if they received physical therapy and wheelchairs. “The children all need to make progress to be able to go about their day-to-day lives,” says Abeer. “That is the objective of our muscle-strengthening sessions. I also include their two younger brothers and their mother in the therapy sessions. It is important that they are supported by their family, who not only provide encouragement, but also learn the right ways of doing things, like moving them from the bed to the wheelchair, for example."

She also brought the children balls, notebooks, and crayons. "Throwing and catching balls, drawing, and writing are important activities which strengthen hands and fingers," says Abeer.

"Now I can write my name,” says Hazar. “It was Abeer who taught me.”

A Handicap International psychologist works with the family to help them cope with the trauma they have experienced. In addition, the organization will provide Iman with a stipend that would allow her to rent her own house. "We cannot remain solely reliant on my husband’s cousin and keep taking from him,” says Iman. “We need to find a house of our own.”

In the meantime, Mirnaz, Hazar, and Ahmad are already feeling renewed. "Since we got our wheelchairs we can get about much more easily and even leave the house,” says Mirnaz. “Now when it’s sunny, we can all enjoy being outside together." 

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