Mobility for Mawada

A six year old girl with cerebral palsy receives physical therapy from a Handicap International physical therapist in Iraq.

Nader is holding a big package as he approaches a family’s tent in Khazer camp, Iraq, home to tens of thousands displaced Iraqis from Mosul. This is the second time that the Handicap International physical therapist has visited the family, which includes six-year-old Mawada, who has cerebral palsy.

“When I met Mawada last week, she was having problems getting around the camp, because of her condition,” Nader says. “So I’ve brought her a walker to help.” Mawada and her family have lived in the camp since November, when they fled their home in Mosul. 

Her mother, Marwa, is still distressed by her daughter’s condition.“She was just 26 weeks old when she was born,” she explains. “Mawada didn’t get enough oxygen when I was giving birth, and that affected her brain. When we realized what our daughter was suffering from, I couldn’t stop crying and my husband was really shaken.” 

They were told that Mawada would never walk like other children. “We immediately arranged physical therapy sessions to make sure she was as mobile as possible.” She also underwent six surgeries to correct the alignment of her legs. “Until we fled Mosul, Mawada was attending rehabilitation sessions twice a week. We had even bought her a walker with wheels and she used it all the time to move around. But in November, we had to leave in a hurry and forgot everything.”

Having escaped Mosul on foot with their four children, Marwa and her husband explained how hard fleeing was on the family. “We had to take turns carrying Mawada and bombs were exploding everywhere.” 

Today, Nader is teaching Mawada’s parents how to do simple rehabilitation exercises with her. Mawada enjoys the exercises and she’s clearly excited by the idea of walking again. She’s a very determined girl. “She helps me a lot with daily tasks around the camp. She is really smart too. She doesn’t go to school yet, but she can already count.” Watching as her daughter takes a few steps with her new walker, Marwa says, “Our greatest hope is for Mawada to grow up like other girls her age, to have an education, and to be able to move around in the camp as she pleases. We just want her to be happy.”

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.