Huzayfa waves hardships goodbye
UNICEF’s social protection programme, a lifeline for children with disabilities in Aleppo
Aleppo city, Syria – “It’s an amazing feeling to be able to move my arm,” said Huzayfa, 13, describing a happy moment in his life. He was born with monoplegia, which meant one of his limbs, his left arm, was paralyzed.
He started physiotherapy when he was only one month old, but his treatment was disrupted by his family’s displacement because of the conflict. “I did not want to stop Huzayfa’s treatment, but I had no choice,” said Mirvat, his mother. “It was not safe for us to stay home after the start of the conflict,” she explained.
He has always asked me to be patient. He truly believed something good would happen and wanted me to believe it too.”
With respite in violence in 2017, Huzayfa and his family returned home, and he resumed his treatment. But the high costs of two surgeries and continued treatment for Huzayfa, coupled with the country's economic downturn and skyrocketing prices, made the living conditions for the family, that had already been burdened by conflict, even more difficult.
Yet Huzayfa never lost hope. “He has always asked me to be patient. He truly believed something good would happen and wanted me to believe it too,” said Huzayfa’s mother.
In July 2021, while doing the paperwork to collect his disability card, Huzayfa’s mother heard about UNICEF’s Integrated Social Protection Programme for children with disabilities. She immediately signed him up for it. Through the programme, children benefit from cash assistance and case management services for 24 months.
“Our priority is Huzayfa’s treatment. When we see an improvement in his situation, we forget about the challenges we go through,” said his mother. Huzayfa’s family spent the first six rounds of cash transfers on a surgery and physiotherapy for Huzayfa’s arm, private lessons for Huzayfa and his brother as well as a surgery for their father who suffers from cataract.
“The happiest moment of my life was when I recovered from the surgery. I was relieved. I wasn’t able raise my arm before, but now I can. The next step is learning how to zip a jacket.”
Huzayfa’s family continues to dedicate part of the money for his physiotherapy to fulfil his biggest dream to be able to use his arm fully.
On 6 February the devastating earthquakes hit the country and family’s burdens became heavier again. Huzayfa’s parents lost their income, and their house was affected. “I used the sixth payment from the programme to fix a part of our house, and I am waiting for the upcoming payments to fix the other parts while we continue with Huzayfa’s physiotherapy,” said his mother.
Huzayfa’s road to recovery has been important for the whole family. “Look, he can now move his arm. Show them Huzayfa!” said Bana, his little sister, proudly.
“He never asks for anything for himself. He is a generous, kindhearted boy,” said his mother.
The family also used a part of the money they received through the programme on private tutors to help Huzayfa and his brother to catch up on the learning they missed, largely due to the conflict and displacement. “The tutor has helped me in a lot of subjects, especially physics, which I used to find challenging,” Huzayfa explained.
Education is his number one priority.
“I want to become an engineer. I am good at math. I draw well and with my hand and arm getting better, I will become better.”
As part of the programme, Huzayfa was also assigned a dedicated case manager. “My case manager is supportive. He cheers me up if I am ever down, but I also make him feel good. He told me I am inspiring!” said Huzayfa. With the support of his case manager, Huzayfa’s self-confidence has grown, and his treatment journey has become even more manageable.
“I achieved a lot with only one hand, and now, with two hands, I am unstoppable,” Huzayfa said.
In Syria, since the beginning of 2022 till April 2023, some 13,000 children with disabilities have benefitted from UNICEF’s Integrated Social Protection Programme, reaching children with severe disabilities with regular cash assistance and case management services.
The activities were funded with contributions from EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO); the European Union and Government of Norway under the UN Joint Programme on Urban and Rural Resilience; Governments of Australia, Canada, Finland, Norway and Sweden; Luxembourg National Committee for UNICEF; Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation; and UNICEF’s Global Humanitarian Thematic Fund.