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Social media power restores hearing and hope to young Syrian brothers


Social media power restores hearing and hope to young Syrian brothers

15 February 2018 Also available in:

It was during a visit to the dentist six years ago in her hometown in rural Aleppo that Badriyeh Hayan learnt the truth about her “shy, quiet” son Mohamed, then aged four. The dentist noticed that the young boy did not respond to his mother’s voice, and told her: “I think your son is deaf.”


Tests confirmed that both Mohamed and his younger brother Issam had been born profoundly deaf. But with only her husband minimal wages to support them, there was no way the family could afford the costly cochlear implant surgery that might allow her sons to hear.

Syria’s worsening conflict made their situation even more dire. Heavy shelling reached their neighbourhood and destroyed their home, forcing the family to flee to neighbouring Lebanon.

Then, in June 2017, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, organized a visit by prominent Lebanese journalist Rima Maktabi to the settlement where they live. A video of her meeting Mohamed and Issam and interacting with them using sign language went viral, and resulted in the Kuwaiti Red Crescent offering to pay more than US$50,000 to cover the cost of their surgery.


“Someone from UNHCR contacted me to tell me they will do the surgery ... I just started crying…We are struggling to survive, how can we possibly do the surgery?”

The surgery was carried out in our partner hospital – it was a success. Within two months both boys began to hear sounds for the first time. Another major result of the surgery is that the boys will finally be able to go to school and learn to speak.


“Social media changes lives”


“Mohammed and Issam’s experience is a testament to the power of online communities, and the individual, in making a difference.” said Mohammed Abu Asaker, UNHCR’s Senior Regional Public Information Officer.


“I had lost hope in them having the operation, and going to school. It is like a dream come true.”



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.