Published On: Wed, Dec 7th, 2016

People with Disabilities, a Population Suffering in Silence in Syria

Twelve-year-old Rana and her mother in Qabr Essit camp, Syria. October 2016. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad

“It was late afternoon when my 12-year-old daughter Rana and her cousin went to the Sayyida Zeinab’s vegetable market at the entrance of Qabr Essit camp where we live,” explains Mahdiyeh Abdulhamid Abdallah, a mother of six.

Sitting on the floor of her living room, with two of her children, Mahdiyeh says, “I had asked Rana to buy some vegetables for dinner.”

On 21 February 2016, the double car-bombs that exploded in the market, killing over 120 Syrians and Palestinians and injuring dozens of others, would change Rana’s life forever.

“The bombs went off at 3:50 p.m.,” says the 40-year-old widow, fighting back tears. Rana was among those severely injured by the blasts.

“After six hours of searching in the streets, I found Rana at Al-Mujtahed Hospital,” Mahdiyeh recalls with teary eyes. “She was in terrible condition; her face and hands were burnt and her legs were filled with shrapnel.” She pauses briefly before adding, “My nephew, well… he was found dead!”

To save Rana’s life, doctors made the difficult decision to amputate the child’s leg. She stayed in the hospital for a month, with her mother at her bedside. She ultimately recovered with the support of UNRWA disabilities interventions, funded by the European Union, and through the provision of the Agency’s psychosocial support services.

UNRWA provided the teenager with an artificial leg and helped her with the recovery process through physiotherapy, counselling and home adaptations.

“In the beginning she was in a lot of pain. It was also hard for her psychologically to accept this new heart-breaking reality,” Mahdiyeh remembers vividly.

With the help of a medical team, Rana spent the entire summer trying to walk again using her artificial leg. Thanks to the European Union, UNRWA supports 800 people like Rana with prosthetics and other assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, walking frames and crutches, through 12 community-based organizations.

The European Union has consistently supported resilience-building programmes for Palestine refugees in Syria – over the last three years, the European Union has provided EUR 23.2 million (US$ 31.5 million) to fund the Agency’s activities in Syria, with a portion of the funding focused on support to persons with injuries and disabilities.

For children like Rana, UNRWA has also established rehabilitation classrooms within its safe learning spaces, allowing students with disabilities to continue with their education at their own pace.

“UNRWA support to people with disabilities makes a difference for those able to use it,” says Mahdiyeh. “I am so grateful that the Agency brought back a sense of normalcy for my daughter, despite her disability. I want my children to have a future; I want them to learn.”

EU and UNRWA: Together for Palestine Refugees

Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and promote stability in the Middle East. Today, the European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This reliable and predictable support from the European Union enables UNRWA to provide core services to more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, including quality education for roughly half a million children and primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency’s humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.

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