First new steps for Syrian girl who used tin cans for legs

ISTANBUL, July 6 (Reuters) - Eight-year-old Maya Merhi, who was born with no legs, had to shuffle around a camp in northern Syria on makeshift limbs fashioned from old tubing and tin cans.

Now she is taking her first tentative steps in Istanbul on prosthetic legs, after images of her struggling in the tent encampment in Idlib appeared on social media and she was brought to Turkey.

Her father Mohammed Merhi, who suffers from the same congenital disorder as his daughter, had fled fighting in the city of Aleppo with his wife and six children and took refuge in rebel-controlled Idlib.

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Maya Merhi, Syrian girl born without legs
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Maya Merhi, Syrian girl born without legs
Eight-year-old Syrian girl Maya and her father, born without legs, arrive to an Istanbul clinic on June 29, 2018, to get prosthetic legs after being evacuated from Syria. - Earlier this month, Maya Merhi, 8, who was born with no legs due to a congenital condition, was moving around a Syrian refugee camp on artificial limbs made of plastic tubing and tin cans.But after pictures of her plight, including those taken by AFP in Syria were seen around the world, she was brought to Istanbul for treatment. And her life should be about to change.'Maya will walk,' said Dr Mehmet Zeki Culcu, the doctor treating her at an Istanbul hospital. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight year-old Maya Mohammad Ali Merhi walks using prosthetic legs made by her father from tin cans in a camp for displaced people, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on June 20, 2018. - Maya and her father were both born without lower limbs. Unable to afford real prosthetic limbs, her father made her a pair out of tin cans filled with cotton and scrap pieces of cloth. Maya's family had to leave their home in the Aleppo province to flee battles. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Eight-year-old Syrian girl Maya and her father, born without legs, arrive to an Istanbul clinic on June 29, 2018, to get prosthetic legs after being evacuated from Syria. - Earlier this month, Maya Merhi, 8, who was born with no legs due to a congenital condition, was moving around a Syrian refugee camp on artificial limbs made of plastic tubing and tin cans.But after pictures of her plight, including those taken by AFP in Syria were seen around the world, she was brought to Istanbul for treatment. And her life should be about to change.'Maya will walk,' said Dr Mehmet Zeki Culcu, the doctor treating her at an Istanbul hospital. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight year-old Maya Mohammad Ali Merhi, using prosthetic legs made by her father from tin cans, rests inside her family's tent in a camp for displaced people in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on June 20, 2018. - Maya and her father were both born without lower limbs. Unable to afford real prosthetic limbs, her father made her a pair out of tin cans filled with cotton and scrap pieces of cloth. Maya's family had to leave their home in the Aleppo province to flee battles. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight year-old Maya Mohammad Ali Merhi, shows her prosthetic legs made by her father from tin cans, in a camp for displaced people in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on June 20, 2018. - Maya and her father were both born without lower limbs. Unable to afford real prosthetic limbs, her father made her a pair out of tin cans filled with cotton and scrap pieces of cloth. Maya's family had to leave their home in the Aleppo province to flee battles. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight-year-old Syrian girl Maya and her father, born without legs, arrive to an Istanbul clinic on June 29, 2018, to get prosthetic legs after being evacuated from Syria. - Earlier this month, Maya Merhi, 8, who was born with no legs due to a congenital condition, was moving around a Syrian refugee camp on artificial limbs made of plastic tubing and tin cans.But after pictures of her plight, including those taken by AFP in Syria were seen around the world, she was brought to Istanbul for treatment. And her life should be about to change.'Maya will walk,' said Dr Mehmet Zeki Culcu, the doctor treating her at an Istanbul hospital. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Eight year-old Maya Mohammad Ali Merhi walks using prosthetic legs made by her father from tin cans in a camp for displaced people, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on June 20, 2018. - Maya and her father were both born without lower limbs. Unable to afford real prosthetic limbs, her father made her a pair out of tin cans filled with cotton and scrap pieces of cloth. Maya's family had to leave their home in the Aleppo province to flee battles. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight-year-old Syrian girl Maya and her father, born without legs, arrive to an Istanbul clinic on June 29, 2018, to get prosthetic legs after being evacuated from Syria. - Earlier this month, Maya Merhi, 8, who was born with no legs due to a congenital condition, was moving around a Syrian refugee camp on artificial limbs made of plastic tubing and tin cans.But after pictures of her plight, including those taken by AFP in Syria were seen around the world, she was brought to Istanbul for treatment. And her life should be about to change.'Maya will walk,' said Dr Mehmet Zeki Culcu, the doctor treating her at an Istanbul hospital. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight year-old Maya Mohammad Ali Merhi, is pictured outside her family's tent at a camp for displaced people in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on June 20, 2018. - Maya and her father were both born without lower limbs. Unable to afford real prosthetic limbs, her father made her a pair out of tin cans filled with cotton and scrap pieces of cloth. Maya's family had to leave their home in the Aleppo province to flee battles. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight-year-old Syrian girl Maya and her father, born without legs, arrive to an Istanbul clinic on June 29, 2018, to get prosthetic legs after being evacuated from Syria. - Earlier this month, Maya Merhi, 8, who was born with no legs due to a congenital condition, was moving around a Syrian refugee camp on artificial limbs made of plastic tubing and tin cans.But after pictures of her plight, including those taken by AFP in Syria were seen around the world, she was brought to Istanbul for treatment. And her life should be about to change.'Maya will walk,' said Dr Mehmet Zeki Culcu, the doctor treating her at an Istanbul hospital. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight year-old Maya Mohammad Ali Merhi listens to her father inside her family's tent in a camp for displaced people in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on June 20, 2018. - Maya and her father were both born without lower limbs. Unable to afford real prosthetic limbs, her father made her a pair out of tin cans filled with cotton and scrap pieces of cloth. Maya's family had to leave their home in the Aleppo province to flee battles. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight year-old Maya Mohammad Ali Merhi listens to her father inside her family's tent in a camp for displaced people in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on June 20, 2018. - Maya and her father were both born without lower limbs. Unable to afford real prosthetic limbs, her father made her a pair out of tin cans filled with cotton and scrap pieces of cloth. Maya's family had to leave their home in the Aleppo province to flee battles. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight year-old Maya Mohammad Ali Merhi, using prosthetic legs made by her father from tin cans, rests with him in a camp for displaced people in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on June 20, 2018. - Maya and her father were both born without lower limbs. Unable to afford real prosthetic limbs, her father made her a pair out of tin cans filled with cotton and scrap pieces of cloth. Maya's family had to leave their home in the Aleppo province to flee battles. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Eight year-old Maya Mohammad Ali Merhi, shows her prosthetic legs made by her father from tin cans, in a camp for displaced people in the northern Syrian province of Idlib on June 20, 2018. - Maya and her father were both born without lower limbs. Unable to afford real prosthetic limbs, her father made her a pair out of tin cans filled with cotton and scrap pieces of cloth. Maya's family had to leave their home in the Aleppo province to flee battles. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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"We faced many challenges, especially moving from the place we lived in tents... The situation in general was difficult," he said. "She was unable to walk so we had to create something for her to protect her from the ground," he said, referring to the improvised legs he designed from tubes and old tins of tuna.

Doctors hope Maya will be able to fully walk with her new prosthetic legs in three months, and they say that her father's determination made their work easier.

"He did everything to make this child walk and God helped them," Turkish prosthetic specialist Mehmet Zeki Culcu said. "Normally nobody would believe she could walk with these makeshift limbs."

The Syrian conflict has displaced more than 11 million people, around half within Syria and half as refugees abroad - including more than 3.5 million in neighboring Turkey.

(Reporting by Bulent Usta Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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