UN lists 41 patients needing evacuation

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The Independent Online
THE UNITED NATIONS High Commissioner for Refugees said yesterday that 41 patients in Sarajevo needed to be evacuated urgently from the city for hospital treatment. They include an eight-year-old boy, Armel, whose injuries are similar to those sustained by five-year-old Irma Hadzimuratovic.

Although Armel's condition had stabilised, he had been approved for evacuation on 14 June. He has severe abdominal injuries from shell fragments, his bowels are perforated, his stomach ruptured and liver damaged. There are bone fragments in his spinal cord.

The UNCHR released details of 13 among the 41 awaiting a flight out. They included:

An 11-year-old boy, Edhem Dedovic, injured by shrapnel on 30 May. His left eye has been destroyed, requiring prosthesis and reconstruction of the eye socket. His sinus is badly damaged and shrapnel fragments remain lodged inside it. He needs plastic surgery to the face and reconstruction surgery on his arms.

Amra, a girl of 14 months who is suffering from a spine tumour which causes her to stagger, suffer spasms and remain subject to fever and vomiting.

An eight-year-old boy, Denis, diagnosed as suffering from a congenital heart condition as a baby. His condition is worsening, with breathing difficulties and a heart murmur.

A man identified as Dejan who is the only compatible bone marrow donor for his baby son, being treated in Belgrade. The UNHCR has transported blood samples from Sarajevo to Belgrade to ascertain that the two match. Now the agency needs to get the father and his son to a third country where a transplant could be carried out.

A man of 23, Marijo, who suffers from leukaemia. His brother, the only suitable donor, was killed in June when he rode his bicycle into the armour-plated car of a visiting American journalist. He now needs a transplant from a non-family donor and costs could run up to pounds 100,000 or more.

The UNHCR also listed several men of military age suffering from war wounds.

The last case cited, however, was that of a man named Ramiz, 57, shot by a sniper on 16 February. The case notes recorded injuries to left lung and ribs, rupture of lung, fractures to the vertebrae. He also developed chronic pneumonia. His evacuation was approved on 14 June - but he died in Sarajevo last Friday.

Sylvana Foa, UNHCR spokeswoman, defended the procedures by which the UN selects and airlifts patients. A committee of four doctors, one each from UNCHR, WHO, Unicef and the UN Protection Force, regularly reviews cases, 'but any one of those doctors can decide on evacuation in an emergency and any doctor in Sarajevo can refer a patient to them'.

UN officials say the committee of doctors was set up to avoid 'string-pulling'. The UNHCR also says that it cannot move patients out unless they have a country and hospital ready to accept them.