Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Visited Count : 406  |  Publish Date : 1/26/2017

UNHCR’s small projects having a big impact on refugees’ lives

Khadijeh Nasiri and her six siblings in Kashan, Iran. UNHCR / D. Tahmasbi

Esfahan, Iran, December 7 - On December 3 the world marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. “This is a day for us to recognize the achievements and contributions of persons with disabilities,“ noted Carol Batchelor, Director of the Division of International Protection, “and to reaffirm our commitment towards promoting their rights on an equal basis with others.“

In supporting the spirit of this special day, it is important to highlight the good work being done by colleagues around the world. In Esfahan, Iran, for example, UNHCR assists eighty disabled refugees in coordination with its partner, the State Welfare Organization, as part of the Community Based Rehabilitation program. The refugees receive specialized rehabilitation assistance including referrals and equipment.

In Kashan city - some 250 kilometers from Tehran - UNHCR recently provided wheelchairs to three Afghan refugees. During follow-up visits, colleagues came to appreciate the significant impact that providing wheelchairs has had on these three refugee families.

Khadijeh Nasiri, is a self-confident and polite eighteen year old girl, the eldest of six children. Her siblings are respectful towards her and enjoy including her in games. Khadijeh, disabled since she was eight years old, realized that her life would be different than her siblings, but she maintained her resilience and never lost hope. “My body may not be able to do what other people can do, but I can be an active member of society,” she says. “Now that I have a wheelchair, I am able to move about with my family, whereas before, I had to remain at home.”

Her parents are relieved that they no longer have to carry their daughter or leave her at home. Her mother and father both suffer from spinal injuries from having carried their daughter to doctor’s appointments and family outings.

“Our lives were hindered by Khadijeh’s disability,” recalled her father, Ali Nasiri. “We always wanted her to know that she is an equal member of our family. As parents, we treat her the same and her younger siblings look up to her. Now that she has a wheelchair, she can always be with us.”

Fifteen - year-old Nadereh Fazli suffers from chronic muscular dystrophy. She was diagnosed six years ago and as a result she had to drop out of school. Her illness made her depressed and frightened. To make herself feel better, she immersed herself in religious studies and became an avid reader. While her body continues to atrophy, her mind remains strong and she continues to read each day.

Like Khadijeh, Nadereh also received a wheelchair from UNHCR which allows her family to take her outside to visit the pre-historic sites of Kashan that she has read about. “I am now able to view the beautiful sites of my adopted city which was never possible before receiving my wheelchair from UNHCR,” Nadereh notes.

Mohammad Rezayi singing for a UNHCR staff member during a visit. UNHCR / D. Tahmasbi.

Mohammad Rezayi aged 14, suffers from mental and physical disabilities. His parents are overjoyed with the wheelchair which allows them to take their son to the movie theater and enjoy the sunshine as other children do. “Mohammad is such a happy child, he loves to sing, and entertain guests,” said his father Nasir Rezayi. “But he also wanted to go outside with us. Now that he has a wheelchair, he is even happier these days. We can’t thank UNHCR enough for bringing more happiness to Mohammad’s life.”

Providing wheelchairs for these three children is not only important for their socialization but for their confidence. In addition to the wheelchairs, a UNHCR-provided doctor meets with the families to identify needs and discuss follow-up actions. “UNHCR is committed to provide assistance to all refugees in Iran,” noted Rana Ebrahimi, Head of UNHCR’s field unit in Esfahan. “While we continue to provide UNHCR’s relief packages to refugees, we recognize that some families require additional assistance.”

“As part of UNHCR’s health program, we are committed to providing assistance to those with disabilities so that they too can live in safety and dignity, leaving no refugee behind,” notes Sivanka Dhanapala, UNHCR’s Representative in Iran. “Together with our local partners, the range of programs provided across the country ensures that refugees with disabilities have access to the care and equipment they need.”

By Rana Ebrahimi and Dorna Tahmasbi


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