Emal and Sibal

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"Almost every home held a funeral yet somehow we survived; that was a sign for us that we had to leave Syria."

Emal, 5, and Sibal, 7, are two young sisters living with their mother, grandmother and extended family in Gaziantep, Turkey. Emal was born with a cleft lip, a birth defect where there is a congenital split between the upper lip into the nose.

“Before the surgery, she would be terrified of eating pasta because it would usually end up coming out of her nose,” recalls Fatma, their mother.

While easily treatable through surgery, the family had no access or means to have procedure carried out while living in Aleppo as the war raged on.

“We were sitting in our garden one day drinking tea when I saw a plane circling above us, and then I saw the bomb drop off the plane. The bombs nearly destroyed our entire neighbourhood. Almost every home held a funeral yet somehow we survived, but that was a sign for us that we had to leave Syria,” recounts Fatma.

Upon reaching Gaziantep, Turkey, the girls’ family searched for a doctor to carry out the needed surgery. While medical care is offered to Syrian refugees within the country, the hospitals in the city were too busy to treat Emal so they were referred to a hospital in Ankara. Unfortunately for them, they had no means of travelling to the Turkish capital. Eventually, their case was referred to IOM which arranged transportation for the entire family to Ankara where Emal underwent the procedure.

Today, Emal’s bright smile shows no visible signs of her former cleft lip.

While her younger sister is now fully recovered from her surgery, Sibal recently faced a challenge of her own - how to get to school. “She is old enough to be in school but it’s too far away from our home and we have no way to get her there. We have no car or money for transportation,” says Fatma.

Following up on the family’s case, IOM also began providing school transportation to the seven year old. “It’s really amazing what they have done for my two girls,” says the happy mother.

Photo Credit: IOM/Muse Mohammed

571 kmfrom home
#iamarefugee
Emal and Sibal
Current Country: 
Turkey
Country of Origin: 
Syrian Arab Republic

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This migrant's life story touches on the following Sustainable Development Goal(s):