Sumaiya and Jubaida playing with other children ! | © Foysal Kabir / HI
For the past four years, this Rohingya mother living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh has been able to count on the support of HI to help her two daughters with disabilities become more autonomous.
The red and purple lilies embroidered on her dress light up her humble smile. The smile of a mother-courage. In 2017, Forida arrived in Bangladesh on foot after fleeing the violence in Myanmar, her eldest daughter clinging to her back, the second still in her womb.
"I was pregnant, but I had to carry Jubaida, my 11-year-old daughter, because she couldn't walk," Forida recalls.
Jubaida was born with cerebral palsy. This motor disability, frequently encountered by HI’s team, prevents her from controlling her muscles. She is unable to walk or even stand on her own.
After several days on the road, the family arrived in Cox's Bazar, in the south of Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee camp. They were offered shelter in a small hut on hilly terrain, recently cleared of trees to make room for the inflow of hundreds and thousands of refugees.
"We didn't have a wheelchair or anything to help her walk, to get out into the camp or even to go to the bathroom. Jubaida lay on our bed most of the time," Forida says.
A few months later, Forida gave birth to Sumaiya. She thought that at last she could breathe, that the worst was behind her. Unfortunately, this was not the case. "When she was born, Sumaiya was such a happy baby, but at eight months she fell out of her swing and hit her head on the floor”, Forida tells us, struggling to hold back the tears : “A year later, we started to notice that she wasn’t developing like the other children of her age." In fact, Sumaiya, now aged 6, has the same motor disability as her older sister.
"When I understood that both my children were bedridden with a physical disability and that they would suffer for life, I thought I would suffocate!"
HI's mobile team met Forida and her two daughters in 2019, when scouting the camp for people with disabilities in need of support. Both sisters now receive comprehensive rehabilitation care.
Jubaida is able to move around more easily thanks to her orthoses and a wheelchair provided by HI. HI's team has also made the family’s bathroom more accessible and attached bamboo poles to the walls of the house to help her support herself and strengthen her leg muscles. Today, as a teenager, she stands tall and proud.
Sumaiya, with her mischievous smile, also benefits from comprehensive therapeutic care, with postural exercises and educational materials and puzzles to improve her motor skills through play.
Alerted by Forida's extreme emotional distress, Handicap International’s team offered her psychosocial support. "Since this meeting, our whole life has changed", confides Farida.
With the help of HI, Jubaida and Sumaiya are becoming more independent every day, to their mother’s great joy. They are no longer confined to their beds.
"I never thought that my daughters would play outside with the other children one day. It is the most beautiful thing that ever happened to us!"