CRISIS IN SYRIA: When 6-year-old Tasinne was diagnosed with cancer, her family had to leave


By Deborah Underdown, CARE UK

CRISIS IN SYRIA: When 6-year-old Tasinne was diagnosed with cancer, her family had to leave image 1
Tasinne, 6 year old Syrian refugee. © 2013 Deborah Underdown/CARE

Ibtisan sits on the floor surrounded by her five children. There is no furniture, just a few cushions scattered about. One girl stands out; she is wearing a bright red woolly hat. Her name is Tasinne and she is 6 years old. Despite having 8-month-old twins to look after, Ibtisan is totally focused on Tasinne. She sits on her mother's lap and cuddles in as close as she can get. Tasinne has cancer.

It wasn't the shelling or bullets that made this mother leave Daraa (one of the areas worst affected by the conflict in Syria) but the fact that she couldn't get any medicine for Tasinne.

"We had been living in constant fear for a year and a half. We were staying in underground shelters and would only leave to get bread; we had to crawl along the streets because it was so dangerous," she explains.

"But when Tasinne got sick we took her to a doctor and they told us she had cancer of the kidney. I knew then that we would have to leave. There are no medical facilities available anymore."

Ibtisan's husband stayed in Syria to try to protect their home. She went Amman, Jordan's capital, where she's living in an apartment that she can't afford. She is already two months behind on rent. Every penny she gets goes towards Tasinne's medical care.

"The chemotherapy costs 200 JD [about $300 USD] a session and I have been told she needs one session a week until July. CARE gave me money to pay for the last two sessions but I don't know how I will pay for the next one," Ibtisan says. "She had a session yesterday and is now suffering from the side effects. I want to take her to the doctor but that will cost more money – what can I do?"

When Tasinne is asked what she would like to be when she grows up she states, "A doctor so I can give out free medicine."