The parents of a baby girl born with an usually large black birthmark across her face are seeking donations for surgery to remove the scar.
The baby’s parents are from the island of Meedhoo in Dhaalu Atoll in the Maldives.
The father of the baby said doctors had advised him to go abroad to seek further medical assistance as there was little they could do to help in the Maldives.
“Doctors advised me to go for a plastic surgery,” wrote Ahmed Shareef on Facebook, posting a picture of his newborn.
“But plastic surgery is not available here in Maldives. And it costs a huge amount. Please help me in anyway you can if it is possible. Even I will appreciate your good prayers too,” he adds.
The picture has gone viral across Maldivian social media since it was posted on Thursday, and has been shared by over 5000 users. The local community – both online and offline – are rallying to raise money to help the girl.
Speaking to Minivan News on Sunday, Shareef said he had been in touch with doctors from abroad who had given a preliminary diagnosis of Congenital Nevomelanocytic Nevus (CNN).
A nevus – the medical term for a birthmark – larger than 20 centimetres in diameter only occurs once in every half a million newborns. This is the first such case reported in Maldives, which has a population of around 350,000 people.
The scar went undetected during ultra sound scans throughout the pregnancy, Shareef explained.
Although the scar is believed to be benign, there is risk of it further spreading across the baby’s face and causing complications as serious as cancer, according to the family.
“There is a chance of the scar spreading. Or even it may become cancerous. So most of the doctors are saying go for surgery,” Shareef explained.
The young couple, who also have a four-year old son, say they are extremely worried about their daughter’s future.
“Just imagine how can a girl will live here with that. Think about her future,” he said. “The only way I can help my baby is to take her abroad, consult a specialist and do the surgery. But my wife and I cannot afford the travel and costs of the treatment. Please help me,” he begged.
Shareef is a primary school teacher while his wife is a clerk at the island council office, earning less than US$800 a month between them.
Shareef said his wife also had a heart condition requiring prescriptions and regular check ups.
“Despite all this, my wife is very strong. I am doing everything I can to help my wife and daughter,” Shareef said, thanking the public for its generous support so far.
While Shareef is struggling to raise money, little support is available from the state as the national health insurance scheme does not cover expenses for plastic surgery.
The Maldives has a culture of families and friends helping to raise funds for medical treatment to save loved ones, increasingly through social media.
Recently, a young woman launched a search for a Maldivian donor for her husband whose kidneys had both failed. She recently announced that two matching donors had been found.
Similarly, parents of a child born with cleft lip and palate ran a successful campaign called “Help Lisa Smile”. The family raised money through T-shirt sales, in addition to generous donations, and the operation was successful.
For more information on this story contact Ahmed Shareef on Facebook