Abdulkareem: A story of loss and strength

"I wanted everyone to know my story because I don’t want them to go through what I went through"

boy sitting with Crutches next to him
04 April 2019

Aleppo, Syria, 4 April 2019- When violence escalated near their home in Hakhlak village in southern rural Aleppo back in 2013, Abdulkareem and his family fled from one location to another, finally settling in the nearby village of Abu Jrain.

Despite the respite in violence in their hometown, the family had nowhere to return to with their home completely destroyed. They embraced their new life in Abu Jrain, unaware of the tragedy that was about to unfold.

In 2016, while Abdulkareem and his father drove to a nearby lake to fish, their car drove over an unexploded landmine, causing a big blast.

“I just remember the loud noise then finding myself in the freezing lake stuck in seaweed,” recalls Abdulkareem who screamed for help for over four hours after the blast threw him in the water.

“A man finally showed up and saved my life. He threw me a rope that I could barely clutch, and pulled me towards the shore,”

Abdulkareem, 11
boy standing next to tree

On that day Abdulkareem lost his father and was injured in his legs, head and eyes. When he was rushed to the hospital, he had lost so much blood that doctors told his mother that he would not survive.

“Even when his chances of survival were better, they told me he would never walk again,” recalls Hanaa, Abdulkareem’s mother.

After two complex surgeries, Abdulkareem was taken home, where he stayed on a wheelchair for over three months.

Last year, a UNICEF-supported mobile team visited Abdulkareem’s village and gave an eight-day life skills course to vulnerable youth in the area, which he attended. One of the course sessions was on mine risk awareness, in which Abdulkareem shared his story.

boy making crutches

“I wanted everyone to know my story because I don’t want them to go through what I went through,”

Abdulkareem, 11

Abdulkareem was so eager to stand on his feet again but his family’s depleted savings made it impossible for him to buy crutches. He decided to take matters into his own hands and with the help of his mother, he made two wooden crutches out of a tree log.

“I will never forget the day I stood using the crutches,” recalls Abdulkareem who is now able to walk to the market and to school on his own.

a boy standing next to home
Abdulkareem stands in front of his house in Tal Jurain village in the south suburbs of Aleppo

Thanks to the Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Luxembourg, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), UNICEF has reached over 47,000 children and caregivers across the governorate of Aleppo with mine risk education since the beginning of 2019 through awareness sessions in schools, health centres, child friendly spaces, worship places and door-to-door visits.