I met Ajad on my recent trip to Kakuma Refugee camp, located northwest of Kenya. Ajad is 9 years old, with a sweet smile, intelligent eyes and an eagerness for life that boys his age have. I first noticed Ajad at the Wilson Airport in Nairobi, as he waited to board a United Nations flight back to Kakuma.
I later learnt that, he had come to Nairobi to receive treatment for his broken leg. Little Ajad lost his leg to a bullet during intense fighting back in his home country of South Sudan that has seen an estimated 38,323 seek relative safety at the Kakuma refugee camp since mid-December. He was shot on the right leg and sustained serious injuries. Ajad stayed with a bullet lodged in his leg for over a month and by the time he arrived in Kakuma Refugee camp his leg had begun decaying.
According to the nurse who had accompanied Ajad to receive medical attention in Nairobi, until then, little Ajad had suffered so much agony and it was such a huge relief from pain for him after the leg was cut off. I sat across from him in the plane and watched as he massaged the still painful stump of his amputated leg. I wondered what that must feel for him, to be so young, born with two legs but now having to live and survive with just one. I wondered what was going on in his mind or if he even comprehended what had happened, or that he was in a foreign country and why.
The sight of Ajad’s thin frame supported by crutches and his remaining stick thin leg moved me to tears, as my heart broke for him. As a mother, I felt an urge to cuddle him and assure him that everything would be alright, just like I do to my three little children, Jack, Joshua and Joy.
Ajad’s case brings to light the agony of millions of children forced to flee from violence and as a result are left permanently scarred by conflict. As I sit in my office here in Nairobi, so many questions linger in mind. Will it be alright for Ajad? Why did this happen to such an innocent soul like him? How will he play with the other boys? How will it be for him in school? Will he be able to access the sanitation facilities? Who will assist him whenever he needs help?
For Ajad’s sake and the many he represents, it is my responsibility to ensure that World Vision’s interventions includes children and people with special needs like Ajad.
Also, as World Refugee Day approaches (June 20, 2015), the statistics are shocking. Over 7 million children have had to run from violence in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic. The world must therefore wake up to the fact that most of those forced to flee from fighting are children and fulfill their promises of ending all forms of violence against children, with specific targets on protecting children affected by conflict like Ajad.
Mary Njeri is the Manager, Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs, World Vision in Kenya.
Related Links to the story:
South Sudan Crisis http://www.wvi.org/south-sudan-crisis
Syria Crisis: http://www.wvi.org/syria-crisis