3 December 2012
Four-year-old Nazih Mohammad Al Jamal suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, which causes problems with movement, speech, posture and co-ordination.
Until last month, Nazih's only chair was immobile and offered little support for his frail body. Inadequate support for Nazih’s head, neck and chest meant that he had difficulty breathing, was unable to eat without assistance, and needed constant attention from his family and friends.
This October, the UNRWA Lebanon field office, in partnership with local non-governmental organisation Arn En Ciel, delivered a custom-designed wheelchair for Nazih to use in his home in El Buss refugee camp, Tyre.
The power of recycling
Custom-built wheelchairs are expensive, and coming up with the funds for Nazih’s took an entire community. As part of a greater UN initiative to become more environmentally friendly, UNRWA’s Lebanon field office launched a recycling programme which operates on a simple basis: funds accrued through the recycling of paper and plastic in UNRWA offices are used to purchase assistive devices for Palestine refugees with disabilities. Garnering community support for the initiative, UNRWA partnered with Arc En Ciel to collect and manage the recycling.
Thirteen tons of paper and plastic recycled over the span of three months in the UNRWA Lebanon installations yielded USD 850, sufficient to purchase a wheelchair designed to support Nazih’s specific needs. “The new wheelchair allows him to eat on his own”, said Nazih’s mother Wala’a. Crucial support for his chest is afforded by a thick cloth vest which allows him to breathe properly.
A chance to experience childhood
With the help of Nazih’s new wheelchair, his mother no longer struggles to carry him around their home or when they take trips outdoors. Now, he can visit the nearby kindergarten and interact with other children safely. Nazih can participate in activities he enjoys “like drawing and playing with his little sister,” his mother Wala’a said.
In addition to his custom wheelchair, Nazih is undergoing therapy through the Sour Community Disability Programme branch of the Women’s Humanitarian Organization. Twice a week, the NGO’s early intervention unit in Tyre offers Nazih three forms of therapy: speech, occupational, and physio-therapy.
Hope for the future
In line with the “Green the UN” initiative, the UNRWA Lebanon field office launched this innovative recycling programme in April of 2012. It was designed to enable the Agency to assist Palestine refugees by engaging in environmentally-conscious acts.
The number of disabled community members that benefit from the program continues to grow.
After only seven months of the program, four more children from across Lebanon are currently having custom-made wheelchairs designed to suit their body’s needs just like Nazih did, so they, too, can enjoy their childhood and attain an improved quality of life.