8-year-old Dunia Sibomana was left disfigured after he was attacked 2 years ago by a group of chimpanzees, while playing with his brother and cousin near a nature preserve in Congo. He will undergo rare facial
reconstruction surgery on Monday.
He was considered the lucky one when the group of chimpanzees jumped from the trees and attacked them Dunia, unlike the others, survived. But he was severely disfigured: His lips ripped off and one cheek torn apart, leaving him with muscle damage that make it hard for him to eat, swallow and communicate.
He is set to undergo a rare and complicated surgery at a Long Island hospital that will use tissue and muscle from his forearm to recreate both lips. The hope is that he will once again be able to open and close his mouth, and eat and talk normally.
Monday’s planned 8-hour procedure will be the first of three major operations for Dunia, who was brought from the Congo in November with the help of the nonprofit foundation Smile Rescue for Kids. The hospital is covering the cost of the surgery and the doctors have all donated their time.
Since the attack, which killed Dunia’s 4-year-old brother and a young cousin, DuniaMhas been the target of bullies and become shy and withdrawn. In his short time in the United States, he has been living with a host family on Long Island, attending elementary school and learning English in addition to his native Swahili.