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Iraq: UN refugee agency issues urgent appeal to evacuate seriously ill Palestinians

Iraq: UN refugee agency issues urgent appeal to evacuate seriously ill Palestinians

Palestinian refugees stranded at Al Waleed camp
Without immediate evacuation and life-saving medical help, roughly one dozen seriously ill Palestinians – mostly young children stranded in Baghdad or in a make-shift camp close to the Syrian border – could die or suffer complications, the United Nations refugee agency said today, appealing for urgent assistance.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) believes that there could be more Palestinians who could be in urgent need of medical attention.

UNHCR continues to receive reports from Baghdad of Palestinians who refuse to go for medical care because they are afraid for their safety,” the agency’s spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. “We know of some people who refused to seek medical attention for fear of attacks and later died in their homes as a consequence.”

Palestinians residing in Iraq are in desperate need of a humanitarian solution, as 1,450 live in grim conditions at two border camps, while up to 13,000 are still living in Baghdad, down from 34,000 in 2003.

Those living in Iraq – who continue to be targeted – have no access to other countries and no communities to seek refuge from within Iraq.

Despite their best efforts, UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross are facing obstacles in their efforts to help. The two “have been trying everything to provide proper medical care but this is very difficult in the dusty border camps and volatile Baghdad,” Mr. Redmond said.

Earlier this week, UNHCR spotlighted the plights of children – suffering from such conditions as Hodgkin’s disease, a hole in the heart and vascular problems – in desperate need of medical care living in Al Waleed camp, home to over 1,000 Palestinians.

There is only one doctor to tend to patients in the camp, and he alone cannot treat all those in need, Mr. Redmond noted.

Residents of the camp include a two-year-old with cerebral palsy whose immune system is not functioning properly and has stopped eating.

Another camp inhabitant, a 13-year-old girl, has a spinal injury and will be permanently paralyzed from the neck down without prompt treatment. Her mother died several years ago, her father was murdered in January and her home was burned down by militia.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, urgent cases include a 14-year-old boy who has had 13 operations but suffers from severe urinary and bladder problems, and a 15-month-old boy with spinal problems at risk of permanent paralysis from the waist down.

“And there are more,” Mr. Redmond said.