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Sisters share experiences as refugees with disabilities


Armed violence reduction | Health | Rehabilitation | Jordan | PUBLISHED ON February 17th 2022
Marwa during a physiotherapy session.

Marwa during a physiotherapy session. | © HI

Sidra and Marwa are sisters. Syrian refugees, they live in a camp near Beirut, Lebanon. They have both a disability, which create daily challenges. Both received physiotherapy care.

Sidra and Marwa need physiotherapy to ease pain and improve mobility. It is key to make their daily lives easier and to go to school.

Sidra, 15, and Marwa, 16, live with their family of seven in a tent in the Faida Camp for Syrian refugees, in Bekaa, Lebanon. They fled from Syria in 2011, just at the beginning of the war.

Sidra has cerebral palsy and Marwa has scoliosis. Both disabilities cause pain and make it difficult for the sisters to walk and to move.

Physiotherapy to ease pain and improve mobility  

Sidra and Marwa received physiotherapy treatment at the Mousawat Rehabilitation Centre, operated by HI’s partner, to improve their walking and balance, and strengthen their muscles. Rehabilitation will eventually reduce their pain and improve their daily lives.

The sessions consist of active exercises for lower and upper limbs with the use of weights. They also do abdominal and bridge exercises to strengthen their back muscles, and use the treadmill and bicycle. These exercises have a psychological effect: to regain physical strength and ability is the first step to regain self-esteem and combat anxiety.

Being a teenager with a disability and a refugee

Sidra’s disability creates challenges to complete many activities that require physical movement, such as rolling and changing her position in bed, sitting, bathing, walking, and playing. Stumbling and falling regularly has prevented Sidra from performing daily basic chores and caused her to feel embarrassed. Sidra experiences low self-esteem from the stress and social isolation caused by her disability.

Marwa’s scoliosis affects her physical and social functioning in a similar way. Marwa has experienced several accidents. For instance, she once lost her balance and broke a knee while playing. The injury limited her movement for months, and caused her distress and anxiety.

“I had a fear that my health situation wouldn’t improve before the school reopened, and would have to walk with a limp in front of students,” Marwa says.

They both love playing with other children, but they experience bullying because of their disabilities.

To have a life like any teenager

By improving their mobility, physiotherapy sessions have helped the sisters feel more included at school. 

“I see my children happier and more excited about life than ever before, whether during daily life activities, helping out at home, learning, playing or even when leaving the house,” their mother says.

“I hope when we are grown up we will be able find jobs and be able to help our family,” Marwa explains.

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