“Seif always tells me that he doesn’t like the scars on his body,” his mother tells us while stroking his long hair. “He is scared to look at the burns on his arm.”
Seif was only nine months old when he was badly burnt in the tent he lives in as a refugee in Lebanon. The accident happened three years ago. His mother prepared the family’s morning tea on the small gas stove they have on the floor of their tent. She knew that Seif was learning to walk so she moved the boiling water onto a table.
She heard someone approaching outside and went to the door to check what was happening. She suddenly heard the noise of Seif screaming in pain, and ran back to find him covered in boiling water, his skin burning.
Looking for medical help
The family took Seif to the closest hospital to where they live in Lebanon, but were told that the hospital didn’t provide treatment for burn cases. They then ventured to another hospital, but they could not afford the treatment. “Of course we don’t have the money,” his mother says, her voice rising in anger. “We’re refugees. They let us leave the hospital with Seif still in pain, badly burnt. It was terrible.”
The family had no choice but to approach a traditional doctor, who provided herbal medicines to treat the wound. But the scarring around Seif’s armpit hardened, severely restricting the young boy’s movement.
“Seif changed a lot after the accident,” his mother explains. “He knows he’s not like the other children because they constantly bully him. They have nicknamed him ‘the different boy’ and it really upsets him. Now he doesn’t play with anyone except his brothers.”
Seif’s mother was given INARA’s number by UNHCR. She contacted us seven months ago and he was brought in for a medical assessment. Our doctor at the American University of Beirut Medical Center and board member of INARA, Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, assessed Seif and said that he’d need to let his wounds heal for a few months before they could operate.
In April, Seif came back and was told that he was ready for a scar revision surgery on his armpit. This will enable him to move his arm freely and mean he can lead a healthier and happier future.
A healthier future
The family live in a camp in Tripoli. “It’s really hard to be a Syrian refugee in Lebanon. My husband can’t find any regular work. If he does get a job then we can eat. But if he isn’t working then it’s really hard for us to get by.”
Despite their hardships, Seif’s mother has high hopes for her son’s future. “I want him to go to school and college, and be a doctor so that he can help people like us who couldn’t pay for their medical treatment.”
His mother is noticeably relieved when we tell her that her son’s surgery has been booked in. “I want to say thank you to everyone who helped make this happen. I want them to know how grateful I am. I couldn’t help my own child and that was such an emotional burden for me. But now I can, thanks to your help.”
UNICEF contributed to Seif's treatment.