“I hope she doesn’t remember it,” Widad says of her six-month-old daughter while speaking to our teams about her accident in April. “She’s my only child. My husband and I tried for children for six years before she was born. I don’t know if I will be able to have any more after what happened to me.”
In April, Widad’s family and 20 others from their neighborhood managed to escape the rubble of their homes in Mosul after they were struck by bombs. “We were sick with fear. We were trying to stay alive and get out of the city, and then I stepped on a mine.”
“When it went off, I threw the baby into the air to protect her. Fortunately, she only suffered minor injures. I wish I could say the same for others who were with us. My uncle died right in front of my eyes, a little girl too. And I suffered serious leg injuries.” Following the accident, doctors amputated the young mother’s right leg. Today, Widad receives rehabilitation care from Handicap International.”
Salam, a physical therapist from Handicap International pays her regular visits, helping her adjust to her new condition. “I’m doing all I can to make sure Widad can be fitted with a prosthesis one day,” he says. “I do daily exercises with her, mainly to strengthen her muscles.
Widad appears to be highly motivated and puts a lot of effort into the exercises Salam has shown her. “The day I get a new leg is the day I’ll get my life and my hope back,” she says with a smile. Aware of the challenges that lie ahead, Salam tries to temper the young mother’s expectations. “Widad thinks she needs this prosthesis to live, but she’s a very strong woman and she doesn’t need to wait to be fitted with a prosthesis to move forward. There are so many amputees, it could take a long time. I’m trying really hard to make her understand that she can do a lot, even with one leg. In the meantime, I still try to ensure she has every chance of being fitted with a prosthesis one day, by doing these exercises.”
Salam gives Wildad a walker from Handicap International and encourages her to do the rest of the physical therapy session outside of her hospital room. As they move down the hospital corridor, she shares her fears for the future. “When I leave the hospital I’m going to join my husband in a displaced persons camp. I can’t go back to Mosul. We’ve lost everything there: our home, our car. The entire neighborhood was flattened.
“Some of my relatives are still in the city and I talk to them sometimes. They say there’s constant bombing. Some people can’t even flee. The doors of their homes have been sealed and they’re trapped. We were lucky to escape and survive. I’ve also heard of people who return home and die because their homes are littered with explosive remnants of war. I’m not going to take that risk. I’m too scared for my daughter.”
To protect civilians who choose to go home, Handicap International is teaching them about the explosive remnants of war they may encounter in their neighborhoods. So far, our teams have raised the awareness of more than a thousand civilians and will do the same for several thousands more in the months ahead.
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.