Eleven years after being badly injured in an acid attack, Chenda Chheang and her 14-year-old daughter Malita will finally receive surgical care in Los Angeles, US, thanks to NGOs Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) and Face Forward International covering all expenses.
Hailing from an impoverished background, Chenda said it was “truly unbelievable” that her family would receive such care after they were attacked by acid outside a relative’s house in February 2008.
“Although I am blind, after coming to live at [CCF’s World Housing community], my life is no longer blind. People encouraged, cared for and even took pity on me. I am very deeply grateful,” Chenda said.
Chenda who was blinded in the attack was also badly scarred. Malita, who was only two years old, suffered extensive burns on her body, face and arms.
They were taken in by CCF, where Chenda worked at a rice workshop while Malita attended classes with ambitions of working in the film industry.
CCF president Scott Neeson, who first met Malita when she was six-years-old said: “I have watched Malita grow and begin to thrive. During that time, she has had to undergo painful treatment and her courage has been remarkable. It’s wonderful that Malita and her mother have been given hope.”
The pair will travel to Los Angeles in a few weeks to receive three months of treatment. This will continue over the next five years with them going back and forth.
Treatment will include scar reversion, skin smoothening and possibly ocular repair options for Malita, said Face Forward International founder and CEO Deborah Alessi.
Face Forward will cover all the expenses related to the treatment. Surgical visits and four procedures for the two victims will cost about $300,000.
Licadho monitoring manager Am Sam Ath told The Post that acid-related violence had decreased over the past decade but have recently experienced an uptick.
“Despite having declined, acid attacks have serious repercussions for its victims. Acid can cause them to lose their lives or make them differently-abled. It takes a long time for recovery with the effect that acid attacks kill victims from the inside out,” he said.
Sam Ath said acid attacks were so serious that they demand the government enforce strict laws for acid vendors.