ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Eight-year-old Maya Merhi, who was born with no legs, had to shuffle around a camp in northern Syria on makeshift limbs fashioned from old tubing and tin cans.
Now she is taking her first tentative steps in Istanbul on prosthetic legs, after images of her struggling in the tent encampment in Idlib appeared on social media and she was brought to Turkey.
Her father Mohammed Merhi, who suffers from the same congenital disorder as his daughter, had fled fighting in the city of Aleppo with his wife and six children and took refuge in rebel-controlled Idlib.
“We faced many challenges, especially moving from the place we lived in tents… The situation in general was difficult,” he said. “She was unable to walk so we had to create something for her to protect her from the ground,” he said, referring to the improvised legs he designed from tubes and old tins of tuna.
Doctors hope Maya will be able to fully walk with her new prosthetic legs in three months, and they say that her father’s determination made their work easier.
“He did everything to make this child walk and God helped them,” Turkish prosthetic specialist Mehmet Zeki Culcu said. “Normally nobody would believe she could walk with these makeshift limbs.”
The Syrian conflict has displaced more than 11 million people, around half within Syria and half as refugees abroad – including more than 3.5 million in neighboring Turkey.
Reporting by Bulent Usta; Editing by Andrew Heavens