Dunia Sibomana is a bright, fun-loving kid from the Democratic Republic of Congo who’s already gone bowling and horseback riding during his vacation in Long Island.
The 8-year-old boy is away from his native country for a special reason. Next month, Dunia will undergo the first of approximately five reconstructive surgeries to replace his mouth.
When he was 6 years old, Dunia, his 4-year-old brother and a friend were playing outside of their village near the Virunga National Park when they were attacked by a troop of chimpanzees.
The animals murdered the friend, killed and dismembered his brother and left Dunia severely injured. His father was working nearby but was unable to hear the little boys scream due to the raging of the river. When he found his sons and their friend, the father rushed the boys to park rangers for medical attention.
“His upper and lower lips were ripped off, his face was disfigured, he lost a finger and some of his right ear and had internal damage,” said Dr. Leon Klempner, founder of the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids who’s charity brought Dunia to the U.S.
He also said, “Having no lips makes it very challenging for Dunia to chew and swallow food, so he’s compensated by tipping his head back to eat. He’s also unable to make certain speech sounds with no lips.”
During Dunia’s upcoming 8-hour procedure, plastic surgeons and orthodontists will work on creating new lips by taking tissue and nerves from the boy’s arm.
Dunia initially returned to school after the accident but was ridiculed by his classmates for his appearance. Andre Bauma, the park ranger who aided Dunia on the day of the accident says the “psychosocial impact” has taken a toll on the young child.
The goal of the operations is to restore Dunia’s quality of life. “We’re hoping he’ll gain enough self-confidence from these surgeries to come out of his isolation,” said Bauma.