“The first person I want to look at when I finish my surgery is my mom,” Tala tells us with a warm smile on her face.

Syrian 12 year old Tala is very small for her age. She is skinny and has a history of asthma, so her parents are often worried about her. The family have lived in Lebanon as refugees for the past four years. It was just before they fled to Lebanon that an airstrike occurred, badly damaging young Tala’s right eye.

She fell onto a knife

Tala Syrian refugee medical treatment AUBMC Arwa Damon

When she describes what happens to her, she describes things in precise detail. Her mind paints a vivid story, filled with horror and emotion. “All of the buildings in the area where we lived were so close to each other. We were in a grocery shop; I remember the smell of fresh mint still. Suddenly there was a huge explosion and I felt my legs running fast underneath me, taking me far away from the noise.”

The debris and smell of burning surrounded her and she tripped, straight onto a sharp knife. It stabbed into her right eye. The moment Tala tells this part of her story, the narrative suddenly ends, and the descriptive details finish. She waits quietly for her caseworker to ask the next question.

The family took her straight to the hospital near to their house to try and get their daughter treated. Doctors informed her that she would need to see a specialist on the other side of the country. So the family packed their belongings and resettled to where their daughter could get the help she needed.

She had a number of surgeries in this hospital. But just as things were beginning to look better for their daughter, war broke out in the region. Her parents feared for Tala and their other children and decided they would have to flee Syria entirely and make the treacherous journey across the mountains into Lebanon.

Life for Tala since the accident

“I know my eye looks different,” she tells us. Her parents expand on this, pointing out that because of this she feels left out of social situations with children her age. “She has changed a lot since the accident,” they say as their daughter looks out of the window of the INARA offices. “She seeks solitude and she doesn’t like to be around other people because they all ask questions about her injury.”

Children in her neighborhood are the worst culprits for asking her questions about her eye. Every single time she feels embarrassed and ashamed. To cope with this, she tries to hide her eyes away from people as much as she possibly can, and rarely leaves the house.

How INARA can help

Ever since the family came to Lebanon, Tala’s condition has only got worse. When our caseworker takes her to visit doctors at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), they inform us that she has a traumatic leukoma on her eye and a cataract. It badly impairs her vision, and, if not treated, will continue to grow worse, perhaps even to losing her sight entirely in one eye.

When we ask Tala how this operation will improve her life, she responds instantly. “I won’t be ashamed of my eye any more. I will feel similar to all the other children. When I get rid of this white color in my eye, I will be able to play with my friends again without feeling embarrassed.”

Help others like Tala today by donating to INARA.

UNICEF are contributing towards Tala's treatment.