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UNHCR pleads for life-saving medical evacuation of Palestinian children in Iraq

Briefing notes

UNHCR pleads for life-saving medical evacuation of Palestinian children in Iraq

29 June 2007

UNHCR is making an urgent plea for the immediate evacuation of at least a dozen seriously-ill Palestinians, mostly young children stuck in Baghdad or in a makeshift camp at Al Waleed on the Iraqi side of the border with Syria. Without evacuation and life-saving medical help, they could die or suffer lifelong complications. We currently have 12 cases in urgent need of medical evacuation, the youngest just 15 months old.

You may recall that on Tuesday we highlighted the urgent needs of a few children in Al Waleed camp - home to 1,071 Palestinians - suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a hole in the heart and vascular problems as well as a young man with severe diabetes who is losing his eyesight. We have also identified a 2-year-old with cerebral palsy who has very low immunity, is in urgent need of physical therapy and has stopped eating. Another child, a 13-year-old girl suffering from a spinal injury, will be permanently paralysed from the neck down unless she gets treatment soon. The girl's mother died a few years ago, her father was murdered in January and her home was burned by militia. In Baghdad, there are other urgent cases, including a 15-month-old boy with spinal problems who is in danger of paralysis from the waist down, and a 14-year-old boy who has had 13 surgeries but suffers from severe urinary and bladder problems. And there are more.

UNHCR and ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) have been trying everything to provide proper medical care but this is very difficult in the dusty border camps and volatile Baghdad. There is a refugee doctor in Al Waleed camp but he cannot cover all medical needs. UNHCR continues to receive reports from Baghdad of Palestinians who refuse to go for medical care because they are afraid for their safety. We know of some people who refused to seek medical attention for fear of attacks and later died in their homes as a consequence.

A humanitarian solution is urgently needed for the remaining Palestinians - 1,450 of whom are living in dire conditions at two border camps, and up to 13,000 still living in Baghdad from an original population of 34,000 in 2003. Those remaining in Iraq have no access to another country, and no communities to flee to inside Iraq. In the meantime, they continue to be targeted.