Muhsin’s voice is heard

Amputee Mohammad Melhem, 13, has received emotional and financial support from many well-wishers. (Hadi Tawil/IRIN)

BEIRUT - Muhsin Melhem will never forget the tragedy of 12 August. Just two days before a United Nations-brokered ceasefire brought hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah to an end, Israeli jets fired on Al-Haikha Bridge in Akkar, 40 km north-east of Beirut.

Melhem’s son Ali, 18, was instantly killed in the air strike. His other two sons, Mohammad, 13, and Ghassan, 27, were severely wounded.

“I don’t know how can we survive and overcome this tragedy,” said Melhem when IRIN first spoke to him on 17 August.

Melhem is a poor farmer from the village of Akkar, around 40 km north-east of the capital. He depended on his working sons to support the family.

Ghassan had his right arm amputated in hospital. Mohammad lost his right leg in the attack and has had a series of successful operations to save his left leg.

“We succeeded in saving his left leg after intense daily operations. However, Mohammed needs another two weeks in hospital for recovery,” Dr Nabil Tawil told IRIN.

Speaking of the post-treatment that Mohammed needs, Dr Tawil said, “Mohammed needs intense rehabilitation in a specialised hospital outside Lebanon. That, in addition to placing a prosthetic leg in the place of the amputated one - and this process needs a lot of financial support.”

Fortunately, financial support is one thing the Melhem family need not worry about. Since IRIN first brought their plight to light in August, Mohammad has been the subject of an American TV documentary.

As a result of this media exposure, the family has been receiving letters and emails on a daily basis offering emotional and financial support - and more.

“I have two artificial electric legs that belonged to my late father. If Mohammed can use any of them, please let me know,” wrote Meghan Smith, from the United States, in an e-mail to Mohammed.

Mohammed and Ghassan have become an inspiration to children around the world. They have received offers from sympathetic families in the US to rehabilitate them.

Mohammed has been encouraged to keep his dream of playing football alive. Robert Spotswood, from Atlanta USA, is also an amputee and around the same age as Mohammed. He sent Mohammed a photo of himself playing football, with just one leg and on crutches.

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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