Since 2015, Operation Mercy in the Kurdish Region of Iraq has been operating a community-based rehabilitation (CBR) project for Syrian refugees and Iraqi internally displaced people. This project has been serving families who have someone with a disability who needs physical or occupational therapy. After a medical consultation, participants receive essential assistive devices, are trained in appropriate physical therapy techniques, and encouraged to join peer and family support groups. This approach not only focuses on the people with disabilities, but also on their families. Our hope is for these families to create a supportive environment for their loved ones and to become advocates and agents of change on behalf of the people with disabilities within their communities. The complexity of dealing with the needs of the people we serve requires a holistic response that empowers families, trains nationals, and builds community.
One person whose life has been changed through this project is Neff*. Neff is a six year old Yezidi boy with stunted growth. He started walking when he was around 2 years old, but not long afterwards, he had a traumatic fall and developed neurogenic bladder and the inability to walk again. Operation Mercy's team saw him for the first time in 2021. He could only lift up his legs while sitting, but could not stand or bear any weight. Neff would sit or crawl all day on the floor of his family's home in the camp and need to be carried to go to other tents or rooms. Our team encourages and teaches exercises to his family at every session. With the help of physical therapy, he has slowly started to gain strength in his legs. He started using a paediatric walker that Operation Mercy provided and then, 3 months later, he started to walk on his own! Watching Neff laugh out of sheer joy as he walks around his tent makes what we do as Operation Mercy so worthwhile.