Today the temperature in Hasansham camp, located east of Mosul, fluctuates between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius. Surrounded by his family, Salah is lying on the ground outside their tent, obviously very tired. “It’s so hot here we can’t stay cooped up inside,” he explains as he taps his leg with a small wooden spoon. “Since my accident, this spoon has been my best friend. I never let it out of my sight,” he says, with a nervous laugh. Salah uses the small object to relieve the pain that has dogged him in recent months. He also hopes to feel something below his knees again one day.
“We were hit by missiles”
Mohammad, Handicap International’s physiotherapist, sits next to Salah. Mohammad has been providing him with rehabilitation care for several weeks now. “We also gave him a wheelchair, a walking frame and a bed to make his day-to-day life in the camp easier,” he explains. As the physiotherapy session gets under way, Salah opens up about his accident: “The missiles began to fall and I immediately passed out. I woke up in hospital. They told me I had shrapnel in my spine and might never walk again. They also told me my daughter died the same day.”
Salah’s eyes start to well up. He pauses to dry his tears, then turns to Mohammad and says: “OK, let’s get back to it.” Salah’s rehabilitation sessions seem to help him move on, mourn his losses, and slowly adjust to his new circumstances. As he does his exercises, Mohammad says a few encouraging words and tries to motivate him as much as possible. “I met Mohammad just after I arrived in the camp,” he explains. “A neighbour came to see me and told me he knew someone who helps people like me. Then Mohammad came to visit me in my tent. He gave me a wheelchair and a walking frame and now he does muscle-strengthening exercises with me. Since I arrived here, Handicap International is the only organisation to assist me. These sessions are helping me move forward.” Doing his exercises every day also helps Salah keep his mind off other things.
Asked about the future, he says he doesn’t know if he’ll return to Mosul one day. “Everything I had there was destroyed. And I’m still very affected by my daughter’s death. All I want now is to live in peace. And in a country where I can be treated properly,” he says as the rehabilitation session draws to a close.