At the age of 17, Fatima Suleiman lost her leg in a car accident on her way back from school. Though the tragic incident forced her to temporarily suspend her studies, Fatima refused to give up and instead insisted on facing life’s challenges. Through the UNRWA disabilities programme, funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Fatima received a prosthetic device, helping her to walk again and return to school.
Today, Fatima lives with her parents in Rashidieh refugee camp in Tyre, Lebanon, and is pursuing her university studies. She is a living example on how we cannot change the cards we are dealt, but rather the way we play the hand. She says: “I’m fully focused on my studies now and dream about my professional life. What happened to me belongs to the past, and this programme changed the way I perceived life and gave me hope.”
In Lebanon, 10 per cent of the 61,512 Palestine refugees who are registered in the Social Safety Net Programme are persons with disabilities, demonstrating a clear link between disability and poverty. In response to these challenges, UNRWA is implementing a community-based rehabilitation strategy within the disabilities programme that calls for multidisciplinary interventions to ensure equal opportunities for people with disabilities. By advocating for inclusion in mainstream education and social life and providing rehabilitation services, technical aids and assistive devices, UNRWA aims to promote the development and self-reliance of disadvantaged members of the refugee community, including persons with disabilities and the elderly. Through these interventions – facilitated in partnership with human-rights-focused Palestinian NGOs in Lebanon – UNRWA will provide prosthetic and orthopedic devices (e.g. artificial limbs, hearing aids, etc.) to some 500 Palestine refugees who have physical and sensory disabilities.
Fatima smiles as she thanks UNRWA and UNICEF for their support, which she credits for helping her regain her self-confidence. The ambitious young student will complete her university degree and graduate in social sciences later this year. She is planning to submit a request to the UNRWA Employment Centre in the Tyre area as the first step in building her career pathway. “Thinking about my future is the perfect way to move towards victory,” Fatima says.