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Press Centre (2/2017)

A young boy with disabilities finds hope and help

Murat, Hibe's younger brother who has Down syndrome, is pictured at the Child Support and Protection Center in Adana. Photo Credit: UNICEF Turkey/2017/Filcheva
ADANA, 2 February 2017 - Hibe Saban, 18, wants to be a doctor. Her nine-year-old brother, Murat, is her inspiration. He has down syndrome and Hibe, growing up in the Syrian city of Aleppo, had dreamed of finding ways to cure his suffering. But three years ago, the war in Syria dashed her hopes.

Hibe has aching memories of her carefree days as a teenager, focusing hard on school but also hanging out with friends in Aleppo’s cafés. She has four siblings, and her father, Muhammed, a mechanical engineer, made sure that all his children attended good schools. In 2013, the bombings began. Hibe’s school was destroyed. It was Hibe, who convinced the family to flee to Turkey.

The Saban family now lives in Adana, a city in Turkey’s South East which is host to an estimated 150,000 Syrian refugees including many of Hibe’s relatives. They struggle financially as Muhammed has only found work as a car painter and earns 1,000TL (US$330) a month, which is below the minimum wage in Turkey. None of his children attend school. To make ends meet, Hibe’s 12-year-old brother, Abdul, works as a tailor earning weekly 50TL ($US16).

“I expected a different reality in Turkey,” Hibe said, her eyes welling with tears. “I was surprised, disappointed and insecure. I lost faith that I would become a doctor one day.”

The entire family was at risk of slipping through society’s cracks into dire poverty when they were visited by social workers from the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), a UNICEF partner. This outreach team identified Hibe’s family as “highly vulnerable” and therefore eligible for emergency cash support. So far, the Sabans have received 3 e-voucher cards for 900TL (US$300) enough to purchase basic food goods to last five months.

At UNICEF’s Child and Family Support Center (CFSC) in Adana, run by ASAM, Murat is learning to socialize with other children and this summer attended swimming lessons. Getting help for her son, has helped ease Hatice’s anxieties about her family’s future.

The family had also been struggling to access medical care for Murat. ASAM helped the Sabans obtain a special medical report that made Murat eligible for specialized services in both a hospital and in education centres.

“Murat is now able to attend a special school twice a week,” Hatice said. “This would not have been possible without this support.”

Gradually, the Saban family is resurfacing from suffocating despair. Hatice has now become a regular visitor to the centre where she is also receiving psycho-social and medical counselling for her children.

Hibe still struggles. She has few friends and spends her days at home looking after Murat. She only visited the ASAM centre for the first time in November. Watching Murat play with other children, she followed him, eyes filled with worry. Then she and her mother smiled at each other. If anything, she now knows there is hope. 

PARTNERSHIP FOR CHILDREN: The CFSC in Adana is the result of a partnership between ASAM and UNICEF. The Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) contributes financial support.

 The CFSC provides a series of holistic services to vulnerable refugee children, youth and their families, which foster their emotional well-being, promote social cohesion within the host communities, and equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to manage everyday life. More than 8,000 children and their families have accessed the center since it opened in May 2016.

The services are delivered by child protection specialists, health educators, nurses, family counsellors, psychologists, social workers and youth workers, supported by volunteers, interpreters and outreach teams. The center constitutes an essential component of national child protection systems and plays a critical role in ensuring that the most urgent and critical protection needs of refugee children are prevented, detected, managed and/or referred to statutory authorities.
UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org