“I was so shaken up my heart stopped”

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“It was in 2014, but I remember it like it was yesterday,” Salim, 60, tells Awtar, Handicap International’s psychosocial worker in Iraq. “Our neighbors told us the Islamic State group had arrived in Jalawla and we immediately fled. On our way, my son suffered health complications due to his diabetes. We took him straight to the hospital, but he died soon after. After we left the hospital, my brother was hit by a missile and also died. I was so shaken up my heart stopped. It was now my turn to go to the hospital. A few weeks later, we took refuge in another town, and stayed there for 18 months.”

In March 2016, Salim and his family were finally able to return home. “Our house was in ruins and all the windows were smashed,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, but nothing like the past two years. The Islamic State fighters entered our neighborhood and homes. They destroyed everything.” 

A few months after returning to his home, Handicap International met up with Salim. “He was still sad and needed to talk,” says Awtar.

Handicap International physical therapist, Shvan, assessed Salim’s needs. Handicap International provided him with a bed and cane to help him walk, along with physical therapy sessions. “We encouraged him to stay active. When a person is depressed it’s important they keep busy,” Awtar explains.

As he begins assisting Salim with his exercises, Atwar notes Salim's progress: “He can walk around by himself now and is more independent.”

Salim's wife, Aliyah, is relieved. “She was constantly overwhelmed, helping him and keeping the house running was too much for her," Awtar says. "She and Salim are both in better spirits. In Salim’s case, the psychosocial support and physical therapy are vital.” 

“It’s not easy, but we’re home now,” Salim explains. “It makes all the difference when you feel at home... When I hear about Mosul, my heart goes out to everyone who’s been displaced. We went through the same thing. When I hear their stories, it reminds me of when we fled two years ago. I hope that, like us, they will soon be able to return home.”