Health

Anbar residents disabled by ISIS receive help

By Khalid al-Taie

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Anbar Health Department officials distribute electric wheelchairs to residents of the province in this photo, posted online on May 8th, 2017. [Photo courtesy of Anbar Health Department]

Anbar's local government has been working to provide medical treatment and support to residents who suffered a disability as a result of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) attacks or improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Thousands of civilians were severely wounded while ISIS was in control of the area, and many lost their limbs to IEDs the group planted to prevent Iraqi forces from advancing, provincial officials said.

Fallujah resident Raad Khamis, 46, told Diyaruna he lost his left leg in late 2016 after stepping on an IED planted by ISIS.

Shrapnel penetrated his leg, which had to be amputated, he said.

Khamis's leg was replaced with an artificial limb, and he has since undergone reconstructive surgery to help him regain his mobility and his independence.

"I want my life back without thinking about my disability," he said.

He is currently working as a taxi driver to support his wife and four children.

"I receive support from the government and I can now add to that since I am working," he said.

Medical assistance a 'top priority'

The Anbar Health Department registered at least 4,000 cases of disabilities of various kinds from mid 2014 until June 2017.

Half these cases are from Fallujah and Ramadi, Anbar Health Department deputy manager Dr. Munim Aftan told Diyaruna.

Most of these disabilities were caused by ISIS explosives and by attacks targeting civilians and the liberating forces, he said.

Providing medical assistance to these people is a "top priority" of Anbar's Health Department, he added.

"We provide treatment and regular and free follow-up for each individual case, as well as providing physical rehabilitation services for people who have lost their limbs and now have prosthetics," Aftan said.

The department also provides wheelchairs and other mobility equipment to those with disabilities or special needs, he said, adding that "we are doing what we can to support this segment with the available resources we have".

On December 11th, the department opened a prosthetics centre in Fallujah -- the only one of its kind in Anbar province.

Before it opened, patients had to travel to Baghdad and pay for their own treatment if they wanted to receive the same services, he said.

Additional support and services

In addition to medical support, two local government committees provide services to disabled residents.

"We have a local committee that is affiliated with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs for people with disabilities," Anbar provincial council member Athal al-Fahdawi told Diyaruna.

This body is charged with creating a database of people with disabilities for the ministry that will enable them to receive monthly benefits and become eligible for rehabilitation and employment programmes, he said.

A disabled person is eligible to receive a monthly benefit of 170,000 Iraqi dinars ($143), which is the minimum wage of a state sector employee, as per article 38 of the Disabled Persons Act of 2013.

Another local committee affiliated with the Anbar provincial council is charged with providing financial compensation and plots of land for persons disabled as a result of terrorism, al-Fahdawi said.

Disabled deserve more support

Anbar provincial council health committee chairwoman Asmaa Osama Abdul Rahman called on the government to do more for people with disabilities.

These people have suffered, first under ISIS rule and then during the battles to oust the group, she told Diyaruna, and they deserve even more support so they can improve their living conditions.

"Many of them still live in displacement camps, after their homes were destroyed during the war, and they now need treatment," she said.

Abdul Rahman also called for increasing the number of beneficiaries who are eligible to receive disability services and subsidies.

"There are varying levels of disability, and some people have not registered, because they have no way of knowing how to sign up to these programmes online," she said. "It is important to find these people and register them so they can receive their full rights."

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I'm amputee (lost my right leg, above the knee). I hope those who feel our suffering can help us. We ask the Health Ministry and government institutions to help all people with disabilities and to look at them with mercy.

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