An eight-year-old Syrian girl whose plight prompted global outpourings of sympathy after she was photographed walking on tuna cans has received prosthetic limbs in Turkey.
Maya Merhi, who was born with no legs because of a rare congenital condition, had been living with her father in a refugee camp after fighting forced them from their home in Aleppo province.
After fleeing to the northwestern region of Idlib, Maya was photographed struggling to move on homemade prosthetics made from tubes and tuna cans.
Designed by her father Mohammad, who suffers from the same congenital disorder, the improvised legs were created to protect her from the hot, dirty and dusty ground.
With the impromptu prosthetics, Maya was able to walk outside of her tent and could even attend the camp’s school.
But after pictures of her plight were seen around the world, the Turkish Red Crescent intervened and the father and daughter were evacuated and brought to Istanbul for treatment.
“She is smiling, in good health and learning to walk,” Dr Mehmet Zeki Culcu, a prosthetics specialist who provided the life-changing treatment for free, told Al Jazeera.
Culcu said it could take up to three months for her to gain full mobility and function, but she “will walk”.
He said that the homemade limbs her father constructed provided a huge benefit because they got her used to walking, rather than crawling as she was previously accustomed to doing.
“Without any help, her father turned their suffering to hope and God helped them,” Culcu added.
Since the war started in Syria, it has become increasingly difficult for victims to access life-saving treatment.
Government hospitals are often inaccessible, while medical facilities in opposition-controlled areas are regularly targeted by air raids.
The exact death toll is unknown, but an estimated 465,000 Syrians are reported to have died with over a million injured in the more than seven years of war.
More than half of the country’s prewar population – some 12 million people – have fled or been internally displaced, with Turkey taking in more than 3.5 million refugees.