Mariam’s mother’s only wish for her daughter is to recover fully

Tuesday 24 January 2023

In 2020, the village of Mariam*, at the time 7 years old, was attacked. Mariam was living with her mother and siblings. Her father had left the family earlier after her parent’s divorce. The assault started in the early morning, when Mariam woke up to the sound of gun fire and the screams of women and children around her. To see what was going on, Mariam, and her neighbour’s son Abdallah*, then 2 years old, came out of their homes. Yet, they were faced with a horrific situation when they encountered masked men burning and looting the next-door house.  When one of the attackers saw Mariam, he shot her mercilessly in the right leg. Abdallah ran into another hut nearby.

Mariam’s mother heard the screams of her daughter and came running out of the house. She wrapped the girl’s injured leg into a piece of cloth and started carrying her on her back, while also holding onto her two little boys. Some of the village’s women, including Mariam’s mother, managed to escape to a nearby valley. Yet, after arrival they were encountered by the same masked men. When the attackers saw the group of women, they started shooting again. In panic they ran until they found a hide out in a small forest.

Mariam’s mother Amira and her neighbour Alyaa, Abdallah’s mother, were among the survivors of the attack. They waited in the forest until nightfall, when the darkness allowed them to escape without being noticed, marching on foot to the state capital Geneina. When they arrived at a check point, Mariam was immediately taken to a hospital for first aid to stop the bleeding. However, from this time, Mariam – traumatised from the events - stopped speaking. The next morning, her Alyaa received a call from a man who had found her son with burn injuries and brought him to a hospital. Both children survived, however, with deep inner and outer scars.

The family started to live in an IDP camp In Geneina town, West Darfur. Here they found medical support from Save the Children. Over the last two years, Mariam underwent three consecutive operations in Sudan’s capital Khartoum - referred to and funded by Save the Children. Until today, she is still using a walker. However, the most recent operation intends to correct a misalignment of her leg caused by the injury. Mariam now hopes that one day she will be able to walk normally again.

The girl also received regular counselling sessions by an experienced psychologist. Dr Othman remembers: “Mariam’s emotional condition was extremely concerning when I first met her. I noticed in her eyes and from her behaviour, that she had seen horrible things. I decided that I must give her all the attention needed. Her mother was very protective of her. In the beginning, Mariam was completely silent during the group activities, which I had initiated with various displaced mothers and children. Mariam would not speak to anyone or answer any question”.

Over time, the efforts of Dr Othman and Mariam’s mother led to an improvement of the girl’s state. She then made another leap forward, when she travelled to Khartoum for her second operation, accompanied by her mother Amira. The psychologist recounts: “After they returned from Khartoum, Save the Children had also finished constructing the Child-Friendly Space here. Mariam became a regular visitor and started responding to other people again. I was relieved. Still, she did not speak to strangers or start a conversation, but she seemed much better than before. I also regularly check on her and pass by the family’s house to see how she is doing.”

Mariam’s mother now has only one wish for her daughter: “I want my daughter to recover fully, so that she can go to school like all the other children. For this I am willing to go wherever and do whatever is needed. I cannot imagine how our situation would be without Save the Children’s support. Currently, I am still not working, because I cannot leave my children alone.

Earlier Mariam’s mother used to work as a farmer, but since the girl’s injury, she has not been able to go to the far-away fields, as she does not want to leave her daughter alone for extended periods of time. She says: “I wish that I could buy a manual wheat grinder. This could generate an income for me in the camp when people bring their crops, and I would not need to leave my children alone when working”.

How did Save the Children help Mariam’s family?
Next to free medical treatment in Khartoum and Geneina, including medical drugs, transport costs and consultation sessions, Mariam also received regular psychological support over an extended period of time. Further, Mariam’s mother receives livelihood assistance.  

Thanks to the generous support of the European Union, Mariam’s family received the support they needed in a timely manner. The same project directly benefits 370,000 people, including over 190,000 children under five years. The intervention increases access to basic health, nutrition, food security and livelihoods, child protection, and disaster preparedness services in five states of Sudan. This comes at a critical time when the country is affected by localised conflicts, political upheaval, climate change and a severe economic crisis.