Helping Ayan get better
January 5, 2012 by Jane Yang
|IRC community-based rehabilitation supervisor John Ngarben (right) works with six-year-old Ayan and her father. The little girl, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, is undergoing treatment at the IRC's pediatric occupational therapy center in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp. Photo: Jane Yang/IRC|
Kenya is home to hundreds of thousands of refugees, and the International Rescue Committee supports them and native Kenyans with clean water, health care and protection during emergencies, and with job training and education on legal rights and protections.
KAKUMA, Kenya - As Susan Waruhiu, IRC occupational therapist, explained my presence to curious parents in the IRC’s pediatric occupational therapy center, I caught sight of Ayan, a six-year-old who, despite her age, was bundled in her father’s arms, unable to support her own head.
“Ayan was born in 2005,” her 46-year-old father, Abdi Said Ahamed, told me. At that time, he and his wife already had been in Kenya 13 years, having fled war-torn Mogadishu to the Dadaab refugee complex in 1992. “During her pregnancy, her mother convulsed while washing clothes and delivered the child.” Ayan was premature by three months.
Mother and child were taken to the main camp hospital for treatment, but Ayan would be three months old before her parents would notice abnormalities in her development. Ayan was having difficulty eating, and her joints and muscles were so stiff her mother struggled to bath and clothe her. Just as troubling, Ayan did not seem interested in the world around her. She would not grasp at items held in front of her or exhibit other motor skills expected at her age.