Hamed and Khalil’s father comes into our offices. The man has been through so much in the past month, and he looks exhausted as he tries to answer the questions we need to ask him in order to understand what happened to his children.
“We’ve been in Lebanon for almost two years,” he tells us. At the time that they left, the war had intensified so much in their area that their lives had become pure misery. “So many times our house was almost hit by a bomb. We couldn’t take it anymore. We had to leave.”
However, the situation for them was very difficult. They didn’t have the money to cross the border into Lebanon, and so had to get into the country another way. “Imagine having two young children and walking through the mountains, just so you can keep them away from the horrors of war,” he told us sadly.
The accident last month
Last month, the children were home with their mother. It was January and very cold, so she turned on the heater to try and warm up her two children. She heard someone call her name on the street, and looked out the window. Her neighbor was beckoning her to come down and buy some vegetables from the man on the street.
After purchasing a few items, she walked up the stairs and noticed smoke coming out of the door. She opened the door and couldn’t see anything, the smoke was so thick. She called for her two sons, Hamed and Khalil, and could only hear Hamed. She pulled Hamed out and screamed for Khalil but couldn’t hear anything. Hamed’s hand was badly burnt and he fell unconscious the moment she rescued him. She cried and screamed for Khalil, praying that he would survive the fire.
30 minutes later, her neighbor’s husband came back - and ran into the flat to save Khalil. He was trapped under some covers unconscious. The covers were on fire, burning him.
Paying for medical treatment as refugees
Both children were rushed to a local medical center and given oxygen masks. They had both inhaled a lot of smoke and were unconscious. When they finally woke up, the parents were advised that they would need to go to a hospital with more advanced equipment. The family went and were told how expensive the treatment is.
The family borrowed from friends and neighbors, managing to save up enough money to treat one child. Because Khalil was trapped in the burning apartment for much longer than Hamed, his medical needs were more urgent - and so he went to hospital.
Finding help for the two children
The father has desperately been searching for someone who could help Hamed. Staff at UNHCR recommended the father call INARA and we arranged a meeting with him and doctors at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC).
Despite the fact that his burns are still fresh, Hamed will need a skin graft on his hand to prevent scarring that would restrict mobility in his hand.
While we were working with Hamed, his father received a call to say that Khalil had contracted an infection in the hospital he was in. Upon advice from our doctors at AUBMC, we arranged an ambulance for Khalil to come to the hospital that his brother was receiving treatment in, so he could get thorough and expert treatment. Khalil will need a skin graft on his skull due to the burns.
Thanks to donations from our supporters, these surgery were speedily booked in due to the urgency of these cases. At the point of writing this (March 8, 2017) Hamed has already had his surgery, and Khalil will have his surgery today.
The family situation
The family have no home anymore. “I sleep here and there,” the father tells us, evading our question of where he is staying by laughing it off.
“Emotionally they have both been so traumatized by the accident. He’s terrified of anything that might lead to fire. When Hamed saw the remains of our flat he burst into tears. He remembers what happens.”
Our caseworkers are working with our referral network to try and find the family accommodation.
Hamed and Khalil are just two examples of the many children in Lebanon who have been injured from living as refugees. In order for INARA to help them, we need your kind donations. Do something amazing today and donate to help others like Hamed and Khalil. Together, we can and do make a huge difference to the lives of refugee children.
UPDATE (October 16, 2017)
Hamed and Khalil both had surgeries in October. Hamed had a scar revision surgery on his hand to release the burn scar and free up movement. Khalil's scars were pulling on his eyelid, making it very difficult for him to close his eye, which caused him a considerable amount of pain. Doctors performed a scar revision surgery to free up the scarring.
Both surgeries were successful and the next day the two brothers were discharged from hospital. They will continue to have regular follow-ups to ensure they are healing well.
UNICEF contributed to Khalil's treatment.