From Lebanon to Spain: Young Palestine refugee overcomes cancer

17 December 2012

17 December 2012

Eight-year-old Ahmad was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of three. Ahmad’s family lives in Burj Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon, where cancer treatment options are limited. Two years ago, a bone-marrow transplant failed, making his family lose hope in his recovery.

With the help of UNRWA’s Spanish Committee and the Fundación Alberto y Elena Cortina (Fundación), Ahmad was able to travel to Spain with his mother to receive treatment in July of this year.

After running some tests, the medical team informed his family that the success rate of the transplant was around 20 per cent. Although they were scared for his life, no alternatives were available and his parents approved the operation.

An emotional rollercoaster

“We were very afraid when we arrived in Spain; Madrid is a big city and we did not know anyone. I had to remind myself we were there to help my son. Fortunately, the Spanish are very nice people and did their best to make us feel at home,” said Ahmad’s mother.

Despite their efforts, the stress of waiting for the surgery and the long distance from her family caused great anxiety for Ahmad and his mother.

“In the days before and after the operation, I kept crying and was extremely afraid that the operation would not go well,” she added. “I could not eat or sleep. I spent five months in Spain but it felt like five years. Because I left my other children and husband in Lebanon, there was two kinds of stress: one for Ahmad and another for the family I left in Lebanon.”

A surprising result

Ahmad received the transplant at the Niño Jesús hospital in Madrid in August, and in the four months since the surgery, he has continued to undergo numerous tests and treatments for infections.

“It was very hard staying in Spain, especially after my surgery,” He explained. “I was always scared and missed my family and friends, and I kept praying that everything would go well and I’d be back in Lebanon in time for my birthday on 10 December so that I can celebrate my recovery with friends and family.”

This month, a check-up confirmed that Ahmad’s surgery was a success. He went back to Lebanon this week in time for his birthday and is now back in school.

Fruitful partnership

Ahmad is the first beneficiary of a partnership between UNRWA’s Spanish Committee and the Fundación that seeks to bring Palestine refugee children from Lebanon to Spain for medical treatment. He will be returning to Spain again in April for a second check-up.

“I would like to thank everyone who helped my son go to Spain to receive treatment. Thanks to UNRWA, the Spanish Committee, the Fundación and all those who made our stay in Spain comfortable--I am very happy with the results. My son is healthy, and for that and I owe them a debt of gratitude.”

UNRWA Spanish Committee
The Spanish Committee of UNRWA is the first national committee that UNRWA created. Established in 2005, its two key objectives are to inform the Spanish population about the living situation of 5.1 million Palestine refugees and UNRWA’s humanitarian work. The Committee also raises both public and private funds to support UNRWA in maintaining the quality of services provided to Palestine refugees.

Fundación Alberto y Elena Cortina
The Fundación Alberto and Elena Cortina is a Spanish foundation whose main objective the promotion, creation, sustenance and support of social, relief, educational and charitable works of all kinds on behalf of disadvantaged communities. The Fundación signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with UNRWA’s Spanish Committee to collaborate on and improve the humanitarian conditions of Palestine refugee children in Lebanon with an emphasis on health-related issues.

UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
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