Children in Gaza are in desperate need.
Donate today
By UNICEF Australia
4 April 2019

Bringing a newborn baby into the world will always change a parent's life. New father Shaheen is facing so many challenges already, but he's looking at the brighter side of life.

One year ago, we met Baby Mohammad when he was only a few hours old. He was brand new to the world; born in a UNICEF-supported pediatric ward in the Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan.

Mohammad joined more than 40,000 other Syrian refugees currently living in the camp who were forced to flee the eight-year-long war in Syria. Born into one of the worst places in the world to be a child, Mohammad already faced huge challenges that most parents would be terrified to even think about.

To his father Shaheen, however, Mohammad is at the centre of a bright new universe.

“I have a strange feeling. I cannot describe it. When I held him, I loved him,” said Shaheen, a shepherd from Syria’s once peaceful countryside.

Father holds his newborn baby.
New father Shaheen looks lovingly at his small son Mohammad, who he hopes will have enough access to education to have many choices in his future.
© UNICEF/UN0216369/Herwig

Shaheen held his son closely; “His hair is just like mine, his eyebrows as well and his mustache,” he joked as he laughed and gently traced his baby’s face.

He was staring into Mohammad’s eyes so intently that the corrugated walls and dirt floors of his small home seemed to fade away behind him. The two only had eyes for each other. Despite everything, this baby has given Shaheen a new reason to smile.

Shaheen then told us something we hear a lot from parents - that he only wishes to raise his son as best as he can. Whether Mohammad wants to become a doctor or a shepard, like his Dad, Shaheen will be happy. As long as he is healthy and has the chance to explore the endless possibilities that life can bring.

Baby boy (L), and same baby boy as a toddler (R)
Then & Now; Mohammad has grown into a happy, healthy little boy despite the challenges he faces every day growing up in a refugee camp.
© UNICEF/UN0302535/Herwig / © UNICEF/UN0216371/Herwig

One year later, we meet Shaheen and Mohammad again in a UNICEF-supported health care centre.

They are celebrating Mohammad’s first birthday with all of the usual suspects - friends, family, singing and cake.

But there’s one other item on the birthday agenda that can be life-saving.

Decorative Image
Mohammad’s first birthday party was just like one we’d celebrate in Australia and featured one very special gift; Mohammad was lucky enough to receive the gift of protection from his first vaccination.
© UNICEF/UN0302548/Herwig

On his first birthday, Mohammad is receiving a vaccination to protect him against measles, mumps and rubella; three deadly but absolutely preventable diseases that can cause chaos in densely populated areas like a refugee camp. Vaccination, in a place like this, can make all the difference.

Considering that 2 to 3 million children around the world will see out 2019 unvaccinated, this is a very special gift and Mohammad and his family consider themselves lucky to have access to this ultimate form of protection.

We talk to Shaheen while the family is at the centre, and he tells us about his first year as a father with Mohammad.

"This is my son Mohammad and he just turned one."

He tells us that he has watched with fascination as his son has grown and the amazing ways his brain has developed in only 12 months.

“Every time I see him he has grown more! Little by little, he has started walking, laughing and playing with me.” 

Shaheen shows us Mohammad’s toys; a soft sheep, lego, and a range of differently coloured and sized balls. All of these toys have been bought using what remains of Shaheen’s wage as a shepherd after taking care of his family’s essential needs.

Father plays with baby in refugee camp.
Shaheen plays with Mohammad in their home in the refugee camp.
© UNICEF/UN0302556/Herwig

"When I play with him, he laughs. When I call him, he comes to me. That is the best moment."

No matter where a child lives, no matter where they are from or how they came into this world, UNICEF works for them.

We help to make sure that newborns are brought safely into the world and survive their first critical 1,000 days of life. We help to provide the education that they need to develop and to thrive. We provide children with vaccines that protect them and prevent them from developing a life-long disability.

We work to help fathers like Shaheen to support their newborn children, and we help children like Mohammad to grow into healthy, happy one-year-old’s and beyond.

But we cannot do it without you.

Our Global Parents, who support us each month, help us plan our global programs for children. You can help us support more families to provide safety, survival and hope to their children. Your support will make all the difference.

You can choose the amount that you donate, and cancel at any time.

Please join us for access to exclusive events, stories, and updates on the lives of children, just like Mohammad, who are celebrating birthdays because of your support.

Father holds his baby boy outside refugee camp.
For every child, everywhere, whose parents only have eyes for them.
© UNICEF/UN0302562/Herwig
Become a Global Parent