Iraqi children return home after medical care in Germany
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The last two of 17 Iraqi children who were treated at German hospitals since October left for home on board a C-141 bound for Baghdad on Wednesday.
The medical airlift to bring the Iraqi children to Germany was arranged by the International Organization for Migration. The U.S. Air Force provided the air support for the mission and the German Red Cross provided ground transport for the children. All of the children’s care was provided free of charge through the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Health and Rhineland-Palatinate hospitals.
A multiple congenital skeletal anomaly has prevented 15-month-old Aya Ibrahim Al-Mitwali from walking. As part of her treatment, she underwent hip surgery and physical therapy. She and her mother, Ameera Al-Wafee, will return to Germany in a year for further care.
When 7-year-old Inas Ahmid Al-Mekelif arrived in October, doctors did not know what had caused her severe facial deformity, said Malu Dreyer, minister of health for Rhineland-Palatinate. The little girl was without a nose and her skin and facial bones had deteriorated.
Doctors discovered that a bacterial infection caused by malnutrition had formed a gangrenous lesion on her face. After several reconstructive surgeries, Inas has a “new” nose that will be renewed as she gets older.
Like Aya and Inas, most of the children suffer from congenital, acquired or traumatic conditions. Two were injured during the war.
Because of the severity of her disease, an 18th patient with cervical cancer was flown directly to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
The joyful sentiment Wednesday, however, was overshadowed by a sobering event. A third patient also set to return this week — a 17-year-old boy with Hodgkins lymphoma — died Tuesday night from complications. The boy’s body was also flown back to Iraq.
“Any humanitarian mission is tied to certain risks,” Dreyer said. “We have been able to help the majority of [the children] … and I am glad that we have taken on the responsibility.”
Dreyer added that Rhineland-Palatinate’s program has motivated other German states to get involved. The German state of Saarland is currently preparing for a similar mission, she said.