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Palestinians in Iraq: First four cases of medical evacuations to Syria

Briefing notes

Palestinians in Iraq: First four cases of medical evacuations to Syria

3 August 2007

Following weeks of appeals for the urgent medical evacuation from Iraq of seriously ill Palestinians - most of them children - we are pleased to report that Syrian authorities on Wednesday allowed the first four into Syria to receive much needed medical aid. The four patients - aged between 2 and 21 - are suffering from severe diabetes, paralysis, Hodgkin's disease and heart problems. They have been stranded in Al Waleed refugee camp on the Iraqi side of the border for months without proper medical attention.

The four are now in very critical condition and we greatly appreciate this decision by Syrian authorities. Two will be allowed to remain in Syria, with some family members, while undergoing urgently needed medical care. The other two will travel on to third countries, where they will receive more specialised care. UNHCR on Wednesday transported the four cases to medical facilities. We will be monitoring and funding the medical care, lodging and rehabilitation process.

At least 16 other critical Palestinian cases still remain in Al Waleed camp and Baghdad, where access to specialised medical care is impossible or such care simply unavailable. They include a 3-year-old suffering from severe and painful skin rash, a 1-year-old with serious urinary problems; a 2-year-old suffering from cerebral palsy and several others. We continue our search for urgent solutions to get these children out, as most of them might die or be handicapped for life if they don't get proper care soon.

In the meantime, conditions in Al Waleed and Al Tanf border camps remain dire for the more than 1,550 Palestinians stranded there. In recent weeks, temperatures rose to nearly 50ºC, making daily life nearly unbearable. UNHCR has procured some 90 small fridges - one per family tent - and tent coolers. UNHCR continues to appeal for urgent solutions for the Palestinians at the border and in Baghdad - an estimated 15,000 - who are being targeted, killed, kidnapped and threatened. They have no possibility to leave Iraq as they are not accepted anywhere - unlike other persecuted Iraqis who can still flee to neighbouring countries and further afield. So far the response of the world has been minimal and we remain extremely concerned about their fate.