Real lives

Feature stories


A dream nearly shattered by Shrapnel in Yemen

© UNICEF/2015/Ghobrial
A child shows off wounds sustained when two bombs hit near a grocery store in which he was shopping. Two of his friends were killed.

Little Mena’s dream of becoming a doctor nearly came to a sudden an end when she was hit by a shrapnel

By a staff writer

NEHM, 9 March 2017 - Mena Naif Dahish is just 12 years old. She lives in Gholat Assem, a small village of Nehm district in Sana’a Governorate. Her tender age does not stop Mena from dreaming big and flying high. Her father often asks her, “Mena, what is your dream?”

“I have never had a different one baba, it was always the same. I just want to change our house to a hospital,” the daughter tells her father without blinking. The father laughs, “And what are you going to do then?” The daughter thinks for a moment and says, “I want to save people’s lives…I want to be a doctor.” Thus, Mena was growing up innocently nurturing her dream of becoming a doctor some day. She was clear in her mind. What she was unprepared for was the consequences of a war in her own country.

The harsh reality of war literally descended on her like a ton of bricks one day. It was the morning of 16 August 2016, explosions were heard all around Gholat Assem village. People ran out of their homes in a wild rush, running from house to house fearing for their lives. Mena too was caught in this mad rush. The airstrike had hit the very house next to hers. The whole village seemed to burst with the sound of the explosions and the screams of people, running helter-skelter. Mena remained calm and tight lipped. When the rescuers rushed into the bombed house to pull survivors out of the debris and save whatever could be recovered, Mena ran with them into the house. She tried doing all that she could, whatever was possible for a girl of her age in the rescue effort. That is when a second airstrike hit the house in which she was.

Mena was injured on her leg by a shrapnel. The shooting pain was unbearable. She was unable to move her legs and lay immobilized, helplessly watching the chaos around her. All her dreams appeared to have crashed in a moment. Then help finally came within a few minutes of the incident. A team of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) supported by UNICEF soon arrived to the area, checking every single hospital to see if there was any child that needed medical assistance. That is when the team received a call from Mena’s father asking for help. “My daughter, Mena needs urgent surgery or she will be paralyzed for the rest of her life,” he pleaded from the other side of the phone.

The team arrived almost immediately and took her to a hospital. The doctors did not take very long to operate upon her and remove the invasive shrapnel from her leg. After a few days rest she was able to walk with support from her father. The UNICEF/DRC followed her case almost on a daily basis, referring her to more than one doctor, making sure that she had recovered fully. It did not take Mena long to return to her old self, running and playing. Now she is back at school pursuing her studies and her dream of becoming a doctor some day.

Since the conflict in Yemen escalated in March 2015 nearly 1,500 children have been killed and more than 2,300 maimed. Together with its partners, UNICEF is working to support children like Mena get back to normal life and pursue their ambitions. 

With the contribution from donors such as the European Commission, UNICEF is able to support a country-wide network of monitors dedicated to identify and verify incidences of grave violations, including injury of children as a result of the conflict in Yemen. UNICEF supports the assistance of child victims in need of medical treatment, through the generous contribution of the Office of the United States Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the French Committee for UNICEF.



 Email this article

unite for children