Voices of Children

Human interest stories

Frontline diaries


Saddam and the mumps

© UNICEF-oPt/2005/M. Awad

By Monica Awad

JERUSALEM, 4 May 2005 - For Saddam, an 11 year old boy from Ein-Misbah governmental school for boys, going to school again seems far away.  Saddam woke up on a Tuesday morning as usual to get ready for school.  However, it was not a normal day for Saddam, he felt pain and swelling in the neck and feverish.  Saddam instantly informed his mother Safiyyeh about his condition who advised him to go to school and to seek the advice of the school principal.

The walk to school took Saddam more than 30 minutes.  As he arrived in the school courtyard, he saw his school principal Akram.   Akram who is aware of the mumps outbreak among school aged children in the West Bank, immediately advised Saddam to go to a nearby clinic.

Saddam was sent back home and his mother Safiyyeh took him to a nearby clinic where he was diagnosed with mumps.  Saddam was advised to stay at home for at least 10 days.  The following day Saddam was feeling very weak and his temperature increased.  His mother kept on nursing him to ensure that Saddam will retain his health as usual.  ‘Saddam is a very active boy, he is always out in the streets playing with his friends.  I hate seeing him lying down, feeling sick’  said Safiyyeh. 

Saddam laying weak on a mattress on the floor, with droopy eyes said:’ I miss going to school and seeing my friends – mostly my friend Mohammed who also happens to be his next door neighbour’  Saddam is in 5th grade, he attends Ein Misbah School for boys which caters for more than 500 boys.  He is third in his class and his favourite subject matter is religion.  “ I like religion the most because it teaches us manners, tolerance and discipline’ added Saddam.

Saddam has five brothers and 4 sisters.  He lives in Ama’ri camp in Ramallah which is one of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank.  His mother is a housewife and his father is a labourer in the vegetable market. 

Saddam while lying on the mattress on the floor, with red cheeks said: ‘I want to become a pediatrician when I grow up so that I can protect children from diseases like the one I have’.    There has been several cases of mumps outbreak in Ein-Misbah school.  The vast majority of cases were in fifth grade, the same grade that Saddam is in,

In order to protect Palestinian children and young people from meales, mumps and rubella, UNICEF is supporting the Palestinian Ministry of Health in carrying out a national immunization campaign against these three infectious diseases in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  The campaign, being the largest campaign ever held,  aims at providing about 1.2-million school, college and university enrolled students including non-enrolled school aged children with a safe injection of the MMR vaccine. The three to four-week long campaign is led by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education of the Palestinian Authority, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) - with financial support from the Government of Japan.



unite for children