Boy disfigured by Congo chimp attack to get life-changing surgery at Stony Brook

Kristin Thorne Image
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Boy disfigured in chimp attack to have surgery
Kristin Thorne's report from Dec. 2015 on a boy from Africa having life-changing surgery after being attacked by chimpanzees.

STONY BROOK (WABC) -- A young boy from Africa is about to get a life-changing procedure on Long Island after an attack by chimpanzees two years ago in the Congo left his face disfigured.

In many ways, Dunia Sibomana is like every other 8-year-old boy, with a dislike of sitting still and a penchant for energy. But the trauma he's been through is almost unimaginable.

His younger brother died in the attack, and Dunia was left without an upper or lower lip and was shunned by those in his village.

"His younger 4-year-old brother was completely dismembered," said Dr. Leon Klempner, founder of the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids. "Somehow, Dunia survived."

Rangers in the Congo contacted Dr. Klempner, who arranged for Dunia to come to Stony Brook Children's Hospital for groundbreaking facial reconstructive surgery.

"He has challenges in eating," Dr. Klempner said. "He's learned to compensate by tipping his head back, because you can imagine if you have no lips, you can't close off the food."

Eyewitness News spoke to Dunia via Facetime in Maryland, where he's on a little vacation with his host family. He has been going to an elementary school in Hauppauge, and the community has taken to him.

"The teachers and the classmates can't do enough to help him," Dr. Klempner said. "All they want is for him to have good experiences."

But things will change for Dunia come January 11, when he has his first surgery at Stony Brook. There will be several surgeries to follow after that, about 20 hours in all, and he'll remain in the States for about another year to recover.

"He's a tough kid, obviously shown it," Dr. Klempner said. "There's a reason that he survived it."

Doctors and the community are hoping that having the surgery will help him and his family re-integrate into life back at home.

For more information or to donate to Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, visit