"This girl means so much to us because there's no-one left of her family besides this baby," her uncle says
Updated Tuesday Feb 21 2023
JANDARIS: An infant child born in northern Syria during this month's devastating earthquake was reunited on Saturday with her aunt and uncle, after her parents and siblings died in the disaster.
Footage circulating widely on social media after the quake showed a rescuer scrambling down a hill of rubble carrying a tiny dust-covered baby.
The newborn was later identified as the child of Abdallah and Afraa Mleihan, who died in the earthquake along with their other children in the rebel-held town of Jandaris in Syria's Aleppo province.
The infant was treated in the Jihan Hospital further west in the Afrin district, also opposition-held, until medics could verify the identities of her relatives.
On Saturday, her paternal aunt Hala and uncle by marriage Khalil Al-Sawadi finally picked up their niece — whom they named Afraa, after her deceased mother.
"This girl means so much to us because there's no-one left of her family besides this baby. She'll be a memory for me, for her aunt and for all of our relatives in the village of her mother and father," Sawadi told Reuters.
He was carrying Afraa, wrapped in a pink blanket, in one arm and his own newborn daughter Ataa, wrapped in blue, in the other. Ataa was born three days after the earthquake and Sawadi said he would raise them together.
"There were legal procedures to confirm the genetic relation, as well as a DNA test," he told Reuters.
More than 5,800 people have died across Syria as a result of the Feb. 6 earthquake, the bulk in the opposition-held north which had already suffered years of bombardment since conflict broke out in Syria in 2011.
The quake also left more than 39,000 dead in Turkey.
Jandaris, where Sawadi lives, is one of the hardest-hit towns in the rebel-held parts of the north. Other children have been left orphaned there by the quake, after surviving years of bombardment in the nearly 12-year war ravaging Syria.
Government-controlled cities have also been severely damaged. A woman gave birth to a child in the city of Aleppo during the earthquake and said he "brought her back to life."