ZAHRANI, Lebanon: “Mom, when will I see you? I want to remove the eye patch,” 4-year-old Syrian refugee Farah Daba tells her mother Harba, who she only recognized by the sound of her voice. Farah Daba is just one of the many Syrians struggling to access vital health care as a result of their refugee status. Farah Daba was born with a visual impairment and couldn’t access treatment before her family fled Syria as a result of the ongoing war in the country.
In the Aaqbiyeh area, on the Zahrani-Tyre road, Farah Daba still finds ways to play with her peers, despite her condition.
She runs in circles, laughing, as her right eye is covered with a medical bandage following surgery to restore her sight. She knows her mother by voice and through touch, but the surgery has partially restored her vision, allowing her to start seeing flashes or shadow-like figures.
At the end of 2015, Brazil’s Charge d’Affaires to Syria Achilles Zaluar came across Farah Daba while on a visit to see the situation for Syrian refugees and distribute some aid.
“The ambassador took the responsibility to treat Farah Daba and with the start of the New Year she underwent lab tests and X-rays,” the girl’s mother said. “A [replacement] cornea was brought from outside Lebanon and in mid-April Farah Daba underwent a cornea transplant operation.”
Harba, who thanked the Brazilian charge d’affaires for his efforts, hoped that one day her daughter would be able to see her clearly.
Like their Lebanese counterparts, many Syrians are suffering from the shortage of organ donations in the country. Like Farah Daba, Abdel-Azzim Abdel-Latif’s family also live with this reality.
Abdel-Latif, who is an agricultural worker in the Chouf town of Jiyyeh, now lives in a gathering with his family after fleeing Aleppo. He has three children suffering from hearing impairment.
Hanin, 12, can hear in only one ear, while her brothers Issam and Mohammad, 8 and 10 respectively, have no hearing at all.
He said he didn’t think his children’s hearing loss was a hereditary disease but rather an acute issue, adding that they’re still waiting for UNHCR’s assessment for treatment. “They say they’re studying the case,” he said.
The three children have learned to communicate with each other through sign language.
They attend an official school, but it isn’t suitable for their situation their father said, urging the local and international community to help children with such difficulties.
All three have been provided hearing aids by a child care organization, but he said these were insufficient for both Issam and Mohammad.
“After several consultations, Issam and Mohammad have been diagnosed with the need to have Cochlear Implants so that they can hear and speak,” Abdul-Latif said, adding that this was a very costly operation. “Each operation costs around $37,000 and I work in agriculture, I can barely put food on the table.”