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Ershad, or the courage of a child long outcast from his community


Health | Rehabilitation | Bangladesh | PUBLISHED ON February 20th 2024
Ershad having a rehabilitation session at home with the HI Bangladesh physical therapist and his mother.

Ershad having a rehabilitation session at home with the HI Bangladesh physical therapist and his mother. | © HI

Ershad, aged 2 and a half, is a Rohingya refugee who has Down's syndrome. Today, the progress he has made in his psychomotor development offers a glimmer of hope and commands respect.

Ershad, aged 2 and a half, is the youngest child in a family of ten. They live in a refugee camp in Teknaf, a town in Bangladesh on the border with Myanmar.

Ershad was lucky enough to be born into a close-knit family. In ostensibly good health, his parents began to worry when he reached an age where he should have been moving around and saying his first words.

"I realised that Ershad couldn't speak or even make a sound. When he was around a year old, I started to get really scared because my son couldn't crawl or sit up, even with support," recalls his mother, Hasina.

Beratement and mockery

It was then that Ershad began to be mocked and berated by his neighbours. This violent stigmatisation had a profound effect on his mother:

"The community called my son 'the cursed child', and parents and neighbours forbade their children to play with him," she tells us, sadly.

Willing to try anything to help her son, Hasina first listened to the advice of traditional healers – to no avail. Then, with the assistance of friends and family, she managed to contact Handicap International.

Physical therapy to help catch up on developmental delay

One of HI's rehabilitation specialists finally made the diagnosis: Ershad has Down’s syndrome.

"HI’s physical therapist then assured me that physical and functional rehabilitation exercises would help him with his developmental delay. His words were a real ray of hope for me and my family," Hasina confides.

Over the past ten months, Ershad has had 12 rehabilitation sessions, focusing mainly on improving his muscle tone and motor skills. HI’s teams have also helped the little boy to improve his communication, working on enunciation and vocabulary and developing his social interactions.

For Mohammed Muslim Uddin, HI's rehabilitation specialist in Bangladesh, early intervention by physical therapists is crucial:

"We put in place personalised programmes and make regular readjustments to meet the unique needs of each child, often with the active participation of parents," he explains. 

The whole family supported by HI

To help them through this difficult period, HI's psychologists provided Ershad's parents with close emotional support, and the protection team coordinated with various referral agencies to ensure that the family had access to necessities, such as food and regular medical support.

Today, Ershad can stand and walk with the help of a parallel bar. He can also sit up on his own and hold toys, much to his mother's pride and joy:

"I'm so happy, I think my son's life is changing!”

HI has not only supported Ershad and his family, but has taken initiatives to raise the community’s awareness about the inclusion of people with disabilities.

More than 24,000 people like Ershad received rehabilitation and psychological support in Teknaf camp in 2023 thanks to funding from the European Union.

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