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While picking olives, Salam touched a piece of metal. It was a bomb.

Explosive weapons Rehabilitation
Jordan Syria

At just 5 years old, Salam was picking olives in the field by her home in Syria when she found a strange piece of metal, a small bomb.

Salam being fitted for a artificial limb leg, Jordan

Salam being fitted for a artificial limb leg, Jordan | © S.Khlaifat/HI

Salam was injured by a cluster munition in Syria in 2015. Booby traps, improvised landmines and explosive remnants heavily contaminate Syria. Children are particularly exposed.

One day in October 2015, 5-year-old Salam was in the field with her family picking ripe olives when she noticed a strange piece of metal on the ground. She thought she might be able to use it to carve pictures on rocks. It was a bomb.

The cluster munition had been thrown from an aircraft during the Syria conflict and, by design, had not exploded on impact but would when touched. It was the kind of bomblet that tends to explode diagonally.

The explosion killed Salam’s little brother, who was carrying water back from the well, instantly. Salam, her parent, and four other siblings were also injured.

The Red Cross rushed Salam to a medical facility in Jordan for emergency surgery. Her left leg and a toe on her right foot were amputated.

A long path to recovery

Salam was first assessed by Humanity & Inclusion in 2015 in the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, near the Syrian border. Separated from her parents in Syria, the young girl spent months alone until relatives living in Jordan were found.

After surgery, Salam worked closely with a Humanity & Inclusion physical therapist and a psychosocial support worker. To strengthen her injured right leg, Salam began to walk with the help of a frame. Then, she learned to walk with an artificial limb. Five years later, Salam’s prosthetic leg is routinely replaced as she continues to grow.

Salam experienced significant psychological trauma, becoming extremely timid and self-conscious after the blast. She refused to play with other children. Through occupational therapy and psychosocial support, Humanity & Inclusion helped Salam rebuild her confidence and encouraged her to interact with others.

Her new life in Jordan

Salam’s Jordanian relatives welcomed her and continue to take care of her. She now lives in Irbid with an extended family of 10 adopted brothers and sisters. She attends school, where she works hard and is frequently top of her class. She loves drawing princesses. Her adoptive father is grateful for Humanity & Inclusion’s support.

“We used to carry her to school before receiving the prosthetic leg and now she can easily walk to go to school,” he says. He has also seen a big difference in Salam’s confidence and happiness when playing with friends.

Salam dreams of becoming a doctor when she grows up and says she would love to make artificial limbs for other children.

Back in Syria

Too traumatized by what happened, Salam does not want to return to Syria, even to reunite with her parents and siblings. Her birth family believes she has better access to treatment and education in Jordan.

March 15 marks 10 years in conflict in Syria. Over the last decade, explosive weapons have been massively used in populated areas contaminating land across the country. Major cities like Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs have been destroyed by large-scale and intense bombing. Many of these weapons leave dangerous remnants or fail to explode on impact, remaining dangerous years after combat.

Today, 11.5 million people in Syria live in areas contaminated by explosive hazards.

Between 2011 and 2018 there were 79,206 recorded casualties from explosive weapons, 87% of which were civilians. While all population groups are at risk, children - especially boys, agricultural workers and people on the move are particularly vulnerable to being injured or killed by an anti-personnel landmine or explosive remnant of war.

Date published: 02/16/21


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