My name is Ameer*. Today I will share the story of how I was born into the heart of conflict, how the years of neglect and living in displacement camps became visible on my body.
You might think to yourself, what have I gone through to bear the burn of war? I am only five years old. Allow me to tell you.
It all began when my family had to evacuate our house a long time ago. My mother speaks of how rockets and bombardments became normal- just like birds in the sky. I have become one of 6.8 million people who are displaced and homeless. Living under horrendous conditions. I survive each day because my mother shields me from every threat coming my way. It’s a battlefield, food is scarce, water is inconsistent and the worst is, trash piles into never-ending mountains.
My mother tried to protect me from bad people outside, my father fought to put food on our table for our 20-member family and keep the tent stable during snow storms. But they couldn’t protect me from something they couldn’t see. A parasite, a bug leaching into children like me, disfiguring our bodies and robbing us of our smiles.
I had never heard of Leishmaniasis until doctors diagnosed me with it. I still don’t understand what it is but I think it is a skin disease caused by a bite from an infected sandflie. They are widespread in poor unhygienic areas where trash isn’t managed and water isn’t clean. When that bug bites, it causes a rash and, if left untreated causes weight loss, permanent scarring, fever and in severe cases, swelling of the spleen and liver. 45,000 cases in one of the Syrian towns have been documented, you can imagine the number all over Syria.
My mother was concerned when I started developing a rash on my face. Not only because it was eating away at my body but also because I was changing into another person. I remember her once discussing this with my aunt, “people had a difficult time accepting him, he became isolated because children wouldn’t play with him, they wouldn’t want to be near him,” my mother says.
My mother did everything in her power to help me. Frantically carrying me from one doctor to another only to be told there are no dermatology clinics where we live. The closest one is miles away and my mother barely gets by after my father had to undergo a kidney transplant. She became the support system of the house and I see how tired she is. But that didn’t stop her from running through Syria trying to see what was wrong with me.
Finally, we found a glimmer of hope. The only dermatology clinic in Northwest Syria that is supported by World Vision! When the doctors saw me and ran some tests, they told my mother it was Leishmaniasis. I saw the weight of the world brushed off of my mother’s shoulders when I began treatment. She once said, “I patiently waited for my child to heal from the rash, he struggled and I struggled trying to find a clinic. I pray that we continue to find healthcare around Syria”.
With time, these scares began disappearing from my face and my mother was at peace again. I feel more confident playing around with my friends now.
I am lucky to get my life back and recover but there are 13 million people who still need medical help. Please do not forget about them.
This material has been produced with the financial assistance of Aktion Deutschland Hilft e.V. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of World Vision Syria Response and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of Aktion Deutschland Hilft e.V.