LIBYA— On May 13th, five-year old Malaak Al-Shami was severely injured when a Grand rocket hit her bedroom wall in Misrata, Libya. The missile, launched by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, crashed into the bedroom while she was having an afternoon nap with her younger brother and sister.
Malaak’s right leg was nearly severed, her foot amputated, her hand and arm broken in the attack, her 3-year old brother Mohamed and one-year old sister Rodaina died from their wounds.
House to house fighting and indiscriminate shelling of residential areas in Libya has had a devastating effect on many Libyan families. More than a thousand people have been registered missing and even more so have been reported severely injured.
Shortly after the attack, Hajrab Abdal-Shaheed, Malak’s aunt, said of her young niece, “She has a problem sleeping at night, she says she is sometimes dreaming about the explosion and sometimes dreaming about her sister and brother.”
After hearing Malaak’s story, the I Go Aid Foundation, an NGO set up by Libyans and Maltese, arranged for the family to be ferried to Malta and from there to the U.S for rehabilitation treatment.
The Global Medical Relief Fund, a U.S. nonprofit that aids children who have lost the use of or are missing, limbs or eyes, sponsored the travel costs to the US, while Shriners Hospital will cover all expenses related to Malak’s treatment and rehabilitation procedures.
On Thursday, July 28 Malaak arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The family is being housed at the Ronald MacDonald House of Long Island, which accommodates families with children being treated for illnesses and injuries at local hospitals.
Elisa Mantonti, founder of Global Medical Relief Fund, said “All the kids that come here, they’re bewildered, reluctant; and once they’re here, they open up.” Malaak quickly adjusted to her new home, she began exploring the playroom, befriending three Iraqi boys who like her spoke Arabic, they had also been brought to the U.S. for surgery by the non-profit.
Mustafa Al-Shami, Malaak’s father, is hopeful despite the hardships his family has faced, “I feel joy that my daughter will get treatment for her leg,” he said.”At the same time, I feel grief for the loss of my two other children. And, even though I feel that Malaak may never be the same after the attack, I’m so happy that she will be able to walk and run again one day.”
The family plans on returning to Libya once the rehabilitation process is complete.