Regaining control while living with a disability

28 June 2021
Dr. Al-Salti inspects a patient’s prosthetic leg during a check-up. © 2021 UNRWA Photo

The public health system in Syria has been deeply affected by ten years of conflict. Both the damage and destruction of several health facilities, and outmigration of professional health workers have added strain to an already crumbling system. The COVID-19 pandemic was In this context, some 438,000 Palestine refugees remaining in Syria have become increasingly reliant on UNRWA for their primary health care through its 25 health facilities, including two mobile clinics. The Agency also supports them through subsidies for the refugee’s access to secondary and tertiary healthcare in the public and private hospitals in the country.  

Doctor Al-Salti is a neurologist and medical officer at the UNRWA Alliance Health Centre in Damascus. Among his other duties, he cares for amputees, impacted by medical conditions such as diabetes, those with injuries sustained during the conflict and those affected by accidents caused by explosive remnants of war (ERWs). Dr. Al-Salti reflects on the impact of the trauma experienced by persons who have undergone limb amputation, “Losing functionality in part of your body usually leads to serious psychological consequences. In that regard, a doctor also becomes a therapist, we help the patient process the changes s/he is facing. This is a particularly sensitive time, when patients have to learn to adjust to their new reality, while also dealing with the social pressure caused by the stigma surrounding persons with disabilities.” 

One of Doctor Al-Salti’s functions is to assess a patient’s need for prosthetic devices and to teach them how to use and take care of their devices. Mohammad is one of Dr. Al-Salti’s patients. A 60-year-old Palestine refugee, Mohammad lost his left-lower limb due to complications from diabetes. After the surgery, UNRWA covered the cost of the prothesis, which Mohammad was unable to afford. UNRWA has also provided Mohammad with access to follow-up health care treatment.  

Despite the pain he has been through, Mohammad feels more settled and grateful with every passing day. “Adapting to life with a disability is not easy, but there are ways to help cope with obstacles, overcome challenges and rebuild your life. We, people with disabilities, are like everyone else: we want to work, be independent and live a dignified life,” he noted.  

UNRWA is able to support patients like Mohammad and to sustain the delivery of healthcare services to thousands of Palestine refugees in Syria through the generous contributions of donors like the EU.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5.7 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.

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This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of UNRWA and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.