On 15 March 2022, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) formally opened its new Physical Rehabilitation Centre in Erbil, north of Iraq. The 14,630 sqm compound is the largest in the country; providing a wide range of sustainable quality rehabilitation services.
The centre will be equipped to serve up to 6,000 people with disabilities, per year, who reside in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) and neighbouring governorates including Nainawa, Kirkuk and Diyala, in addition to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, mainly from Syria.
People with disabilities are offered a variety of services including receiving prosthetic and orthotic devices, wheelchairs, walking aids and other necessary tools to support them in daily activities. The centre also provides grants to start small businesses, vocational trainings and mental health and psychological support to persons with disabilities, all of which support their continued inclusion in society.
“The provided services are crucial for the rehabilitation and social integration of people with disabilities to help them regain their confidence, independence and ability to provide for their families,” said Jean-Jérôme Casabianca, Head of the ICRC’s Iraq delegation.
The physical rehabilitation sector has been struggling due to the scarcity of skilled practitioners. It is estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis are in need of physical rehabilitation services, of whom over 200,000 require a prosthesis and/or orthosis. To this end, the ICRC started a full 4-year programme at the Prosthetic and Orthotic College in Erbil, in collaboration with Erbil Polytechnic University. Students from all over Iraq are being taught and trained to become professionals in the field.
“The level of expertise, knowledge and on the job training we receive are crucial for our development as professionals in this field. I feel proud, as an Iraqi, to be able to help others and be a source of hope for people to continue living their lives in the best way possible,” said Bakhtiyar Ismail Muhammad, a bench worker in the centre.
• More than 23,000 people with physical disabilities received services from ICRC’s centre in Erbil in addition to the supported centres across the country
• According to the Iraqi Ministry of Health; It is estimated that around 15% of the Iraqi population live with disabilities (approximately 6 million people)
• 1996-2021, the ICRC’s Physical Rehabilitation Centre in Erbil provided physical rehabilitation services to 16,320 people, including more than 8,000 amputees in which around 2,750 of them were mine victims and 2,100 were amputated due to other conflict reasons.
• The ICRC currently supports 5 physical rehabilitation centres in Iraq, in: Nasiriya, Mosul, Fallujah, Erbil, and Baghdad.