“As I was in the hospital giving birth to my son our village was bombed,” explains Hatem’s mother Rana. “When we went back, there was nothing left.”
Hatem has never known a home. Aged just six days old, his family had no choice but to flee Syria, leaving behind their friends, their family, and everything they had ever known. Hatem and his parents now live as refugees in a tent in Lebanon. Despite this, his father, Amjad, says that he is grateful for the little they have. “It could be so much worse.”
It was a particularly windy day when Hatem’s accident happened. His mother was preparing food and heating oil just outside of their tent. While Hatem was playing outside, a strong wind knocked the oil over, spilling it over his tiny body.
The family have very little money. Neither parent can find work, and they are reliant on their UNHCR food card. They had no idea who could help them with the cost of medical treatment. It was because of this that they first tried to treat their son at home.
However, as his mouth became infected, they soon realised they had no choice but to take their son to a hospital. At the hospital, their worst fears were confirmed: Hatem’s condition was much worse than they initially thought. He would need a number of surgeries to treat his severe burns.
His parents begged everyone they knew to lend them money. They managed to raise enough to pay for a few surgeries – but they couldn’t afford all of them.
How INARA can help
After these initial surgeries, Hatem’s condition is better. However, his lip is still stuck to his chin, making it difficult for him to eat. “He’s embarrassed when he eats,” explains Rana. “He’s afraid that food or liquids might spill out of his mouth.” His neck is also stuck into position and he cannot move it properly. If this stays the same, his neck won’t grow and his mouth will be pulled further down by the scarring, leaving him disfigured.
The family’s money ran out after the initial surgeries had taken place. That is when the family discovered INARA. Their case was referred to us by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), who were aware that the family needed urgent help.
We will match Hatem to doctors at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) who will be able to perform one surgery which will detach his lip from his chin and at the same time release the tight skin on his neck.
How the injuries impact his life
Aged just three years old when we met him, saliva slips down from his burnt mouth, onto the page that he is drawing on. He looks up at his mother when it happens, and hides his face slightly with the sheet covered in his scribbles.
The family explain that his burns make Hatem’s life difficult. “He gets annoyed about the other children in the neighbourhood. They bully him and make fun of his burns.”
Hatem is noticeably shy. He struggles to interact with anyone other than his parents, and instead focuses on the pen and paper in front of him, distracting him from the people around him. When asked to pose for a photograph, he hides in the corner behind his mother’s coat.
His father looks at his son, hiding in the corner. “I hope that Hatem will recover. This is all I want from life. I just want to see him as he used to be and then I don’t care if I die after that. This is my only wish.”
Hatem’s surgery was made possible thanks to a donation made in Emma’s memory. Emma was a beautiful and witty little girl in life, who would have wanted to help other children. She is now a loving and caring guardian angel for Hatem.
UNICEF contributed to Hatem's treatment.