A third of the people in northern Syria are disabled

A man with a disability, “amputation of a lower limb,” in the new Bab al-Salama camp in the village of Sajo in Azaz region in the northern countryside of Aleppo - December 2, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Dayan Junpaz)

A man with a disability, “amputation of a lower limb,” in the new Bab al-Salama camp in the village of Sajo in Azaz region in the northern countryside of Aleppo - December 2, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Dayan Junpaz)

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Enab Baladi – Reem Hammoud

“I bear the pain of my injury to support my family.” In a calm and sad tone, the 58-year-old Ibtisam spoke about her suffering while working as a result of an injury to her left hand, which she suffered as a result of Syrian regime forces’ bombing of the city of Darayya in the Damascus countryside ten years ago.

Ibtisam, who is based in the town of al-Foua, north of Idlib, told Enab Baladi that she was injured in her left hand more than ten years ago as a result of a missile fired by Syrian regime forces at her hometown of Darayya in the western suburbs of the capital Damascus.

The woman is not the only one whose circumstances force them to work to support their families despite their injury as in northern Syria, 13% of children with disabilities work for the same reason, according to a report issued by the Assistance Coordination Unit in October.

Enab Baladi sheds light on Syrians on whose bodies the war left its effects, left them with disabilities amidst deteriorating economic and living conditions, and eliminated their treatment opportunities in northwestern Syria.

Work despite pain

Syrians with disabilities are forced to undertake hard work that exacerbates their old physical injuries that they sustained during the Syrian revolution that began in March 2011, especially with the absence of an alternative breadwinner in their families.

Ibtisam (she declined to mention her full name) works in her home to secure the expenses of her family of four people, and her work is limited to making bread, which she sells to her neighbors and to one of the chicken Shawarma restaurants in the al-Foua area in the northern countryside of Idlib.

The amount that Shawarma restaurants order from Ibtisam varies from one day to the next, while it provides her family with an amount that does not exceed $100 per month, and in cases where sales decrease, she receives an amount of $50.

While working, Ibtisam suffers from severe pain at the site of her injury, especially because she continues the process of stretching the dough for more than two hours without stopping, which exacerbates the feeling of fatigue that comes from the injured nerve.

Also, the pain is not limited to difficult work but rather increases in the winter when the injury is exposed to cold, she told Enab Baladi.

The situation is not much different for Mohammad Ghanoum, 37, who was injured several times in different parts of his body, but the most severe injury was to his left leg in 2015, as a result of missile shrapnel during a battle between Syrian regime forces and opposition factions in Eastern Ghouta suburbs near Damascus.

In February 2018, Russian-backed regime forces launched an attack on Eastern Ghouta, and the campaign ended with the deaths of more than 1,500 civilians between February and March 2018 before regime forces took control of the region.

Following an agreement between the Syrian regime forces and the opposition factions at the time, Eastern Ghouta was emptied of all its surviving residents, some of whom were transported to northern Syria, and some of them were absent in detention centers. The majority of them arrived at shelter centers in regime-controlled areas, and most of them later returned to Ghouta Suburbs once again.

The total number of people forcibly displaced from Eastern Ghouta reached 78,000 people, and more than 80,000 people left the region during the military campaign through crossings opened by the regime and were detained in what are known as shelter centers, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Ghanoum comes from the town of Hamouriyah in the Damascus countryside. He is married and has two children. The lack of someone else to support his family forced him to work as a taxi driver, but the pressure while driving the car causes pain and swelling in his wound daily, and he is forced to use medications to relieve the pain in his foot, which shortened after his last surgery.

The IDP is facing difficulties in coping with his current situation and the daily pain, but there is no solution to relieve his pain other than quitting his current job, which only provides an amount that does not reach $100 per month.

He resorted to selling on stands and carts in front of the school, with the aim of relieving the pressure on his injury so as not to lose his leg due to the continuous swelling of the injury, which prevents him from installing his prosthetic limb for a period of two days, according to what he said.

Too late, Money controls treatment

The difficulties facing war-injured people are not limited to exposure to injury, the loss of a body part’s natural movement, or amputation and complete change in appearance. It is noted that some of them still have the opportunity for treatment despite the absence of the ability to apply it, while for others the opportunity has disappeared due to the passage of a long time since the injury.

After Ghanoum was injured, he refused to have his leg amputated and resorted to treating it in several ways, one of which was the doctors extracting a bone from his waist and from his good foot to repair the damaged bone in the place of the shrapnel in his left leg, which led to the wound becoming infected because it was not compatible with the healthy bones, according to what he said.

The man added that he was forced to change his doctor to perform a leg-shortening operation instead of amputation, which caused it to shorten by about 13 centimeters after removing the inflamed bones.

Ghanoum told Enab Baladi that his wound is still in a stage that can be treated with large sums of money, and the process of installing a device in the injured leg requires about $1,500. Its mission is to lengthen the leg monthly by about one centimeter, and this requires lying down for up to a year and a half to obtain the desired result.

The young man’s financial ability is not commensurate with the costs of the operation and its consequences, including securing the family’s expenses, medicines, and healthy foods appropriate to his health condition to increase the probability of its success, according to Ghanoum, who expressed his desire to receive treatment.

As for Ibtisam, she told Enab Baladi that she tried hard to search for treatment for her injured hand, only to discover the necessity of receiving treatment for the nerve sooner, less than a year after the injury during her stay in the besieged city of Darayya, as her living, medical, and humanitarian conditions were difficult at that time.

The complete nerve damage in Ibtisam’s hand indicates that she has lost the only opportunity she was looking for to undergo treatment when her conditions improve, but today, the lack of hope forces her to cope with her pain without being able to relieve it except with pain-relieving medications, she told Enab Baladi.

Statistics

The Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) issued a report last October regarding disability in northern Syria and the extent of its spread and impact on society. The percentage of unemployed people with disabilities in the region reached 82%.

Statistics in the report indicate that 13% of children with disabilities work to support their families, compared to 9% of children without disabilities who work to support their families.

The latest OCHA report in 2022 indicates that 28% of Syrians are people with disabilities.

In a report by the office in 2020, it was stated that 36% of the displaced Syrians are people with disabilities who come from areas that witnessed intense bombing by the regime forces and their Russian ally and are distributed in northeastern and northwestern Syria.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities falls on December 3 of each year. The United Nations has designated this day since 1992 to support people with disabilities. It aims to increase understanding of disability issues and guarantee the rights of people with disabilities.

It also calls for increasing awareness of the inclusion of people with disabilities in political, economic, and cultural life.

The percentage of disability in the regime-controlled areas of the population is 27%, in the areas under the control of the Syrian Interim Government 19%, and in the areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration 37%.

In areas controlled by the Salvation Government, the percentage is 28%, according to a report issued by the United Nations Humanitarian Needs Assessment Program in 2021.

About 1.5 million Syrians suffer from permanent disabilities resulting from the conflict, including 86,000 people whose injuries led to the amputation of limbs, according to a report published by the World Health Organization in 2017.

 

 

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