SERJILLA, SYRIA – Eight-year-old Maya Merhi had to struggle around a Syrian displaced persons camp on artificial limbs made of plastic tubing and tin cans.
But now the girl, who was born with no legs due to a congenital condition, is walking on new prosthetics after undergoing treatment in Turkey.
Pictures of her plight, including those taken by AFP in Syria, were seen around the world in June, and she was taken to Istanbul for the life-changing procedure.
Dressed in a pink sweater and matching shoes, Maya on Saturday was able for the first time to walk along the rutted roads of the Serjilla camp after arriving back.
Finally she joined in the games and dancing with the other children.
“I was so happy when I saw her walking,” says her father Mohammed, sitting in their makeshift tent.
“The whole family and all our loved ones were so happy.”
Mohammed suffers the same condition as his daughter, known as congenital amputation, which means the person is born without lower limbs.
He cobbled together the homemade prosthetics on which she used to shuffle around the camp.
Originally from Aleppo region, the father and daughter had to move to rebel-held Idlib province as fighting from Syria’s civil war began to rage around their home.
After the pictures of Maya’s difficulties sparked attention across the globe, the Turkish Red Crescent intervened.
The father and daughter were evacuated from Syria by the Turkish authorities and brought to Istanbul for treatment at a specialized clinic.
Mohammed received prosthetic limbs as well, but admits that he isn’t yet as steady on them as his daughter.
Sitting on a foam mattress, his daughter unwraps the artificial legs and attaches them.
“To begin with there were difficulties getting used to them,” says her uncle Hussein, who accompanied his brother and niece to Turkey.
“All of a sudden she found herself up high on the new prosthetics.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5