Aref

Rebuilding Aref's nose

Five year old Aref was sleeping when a rocket hit his house in Aleppo, setting it on fire. His father was able to save him but not before Aref was engulfed by the flames, leaving his face horribly disfigured.

His features had melted into a single mass, including his nose and nostrils which fused shut. This forced him to breathe with great difficulty, wheezing deeply out of a small gap left in his also deformed mouth.

Help was needed

10 months later, a UNICEF Lebanon staff member, Luciano Calestini came across Aref in a tented settlement outside of Tripoli, Lebanon. Aref’s father was desperately appealing to everyone for help and, compelled to take action, Luciano brought the case to INARA’s attention. “UNICEF is unable to support such a case, but we must find a way to help him.”

INARA connected Luciano with the American University Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) who provided reduced rates for the treatment. Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah worked pro bono to reconstruct Aref’s face which required not only rebuilding his nose but included a lengthy process of generating healthy skin, using tissue expanders. This meant Aref had to stay close to the hospital for months.  

Fundraising efforts

Aref after Syrian refugee Arwa Damon

Luciano and others spearheaded the effort to fundraise for both the medical costs and accommodation Aref and one of his parents would need. Leading the way was the Australian government, who acted quickly to mobilize resources for this exceptionally difficult case.

Today, Aref, his immediate and some of his extended family have been resettled in Australia. Thanks to the generosity and kindness of many, Aref is on his way to recovery and starting to living again – as best as he can given all he has been through -  as any five year old boy should.