Palestine Red Crescent Society supporting parents with severely disabled children

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By Hanne Sorine Sorensen, IFRC

Twice a week Amani Muhammed Al-Jamal enters the small house in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, where Mahmoud and Alaf live with their seven children. Three have disabilities and one is deaf.

The three severely disabled children are not getting any education due to the lack of specialised centres in Rafah, while their sibling who suffers from hearing impairment attends a school for deaf children in the area.

Amani, who is a Palestine Red Crescent Society volunteer, engaged in the organization’s community-based special education programme, is teaching the parents how to deal with and take care of their children, as having four disabled children is a big challenge to a family of nine and who lives in a small house.

“I am teaching the parents about health issues. Also I teach them how they can stimulate the children, how they can teach the children how to go to the bathroom, how to drink, how to pick a cup of water, how to handle a pen and how to wash their hands,” said Amani who focuses on 11-year-old Rahaf and 17-year-old Reham, when she visits the house two times a week.

Reham uses a wheelchair, and her mother finds it very difficult to look after her. But the mother has now learned techniques to care for her.

As for Rahaf, she didn’t like to be touched by Amani when she first came to visit the house one month ago. She only wanted to be with her mother day and night, leaving the latter with not much sleep.

“Earlier Rahaf kept us all awake at night. She wouldn’t let us sleep. But after Amani started to visit us and support us, Rahaf has become much more independent and now sleeps on her own,” said her father Mahmoud. He added: “Before today’s visit she was eagerly waiting for Amani outside the house.”

On a carpet Amani is playing with Rahaf, while at the same time trying to teach her how to comb her hair. It is difficult, as Rahaf has a lot of energy and finds it difficult to sit still.

“Amani and Rahaf have a very special way of communicating, which is good for Rahaf. She has become quieter, and has started to play with her siblings,” said Mahmoud.

As for the family’s third severely disabled child, 23 year old Ramadan, he also benefits from the home-visit programme, although it targets families with disabled children between 5 and 18 years old. The whole family benefits from Amani’s training, as the parents are taught how they can deal with all their children in a better way.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society is supporting a total of 70 severely disabled children with home visits in Rafah. The training for each family lasts for six months. When Amani finishes the training, follow-up visits will take place to see how the family is coping.

The organization’s community based special education programme started in Khan Younis in 2007 and was expanded to Rafah in 2011. The program is supported by the Swedish Red Cross and the Norwegian Red Cross. The Palestine Red Crescent Society is cooperating with two local organizations, People with Physical Disabilities and the National Society for Disabled, in the implementation of this programme.