Bosnia: Waiting for a life-saving flight

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The Independent Online
Five-year-old Irma Hadzimuratovic awaits a mercy flight from Sarajevo that may save her life. Irma was wounded in a Serbian mortar attack on the Bosnian capital on 30 July that killed her mother, Reuter reports.

The child's Bosnian surgeon says she will die if she does not receive urgent medical treatment unavailable in Sarajevo, but her hopes of survival rest on bureaucratic procedures for UN medical evacuations. The surgeon, Edo Jagancac, says he has tried for five days to get the three UN humanitarian organisations in Sarajevo - the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Unicef and the World Health Organisation (WHO) - to fly her out. Each time he was told that Irma's case had to be approved by a medical committee, co- ordinated by UNHCR, which meets every four to six weeks to consider which patients qualify for evacuation. It deals only with wounded whose lives have been saved by Sarajevo surgeons and would benefit from specialist treatment abroad. The committee last met on 28 and 29 July and only one of its four members - foreign doctors from UNHCR, Unicef, WHO and the UN Protection Force - is currently in Sarajevo.

The child - who has abdominal, spinal and head injuries - was clinically dead for one minute after surgery last week and now lies on a soiled bed in Sarajevo's state hospital, occasionally whimpering in pain. A small plastic doll sits on her bed. 'She was a very lively girl. She wanted to go out even if it was war,' said Ramis Hadzimuratovic, Irma's father. Dr Jagancac said Irma's condition had deteriorated yesterday when she began bleeding internally. 'She is a very simple case. She will simply die here and survive there (abroad),' he said. 'I think she will die today or tomorrow. I hope I am wrong.' He added that Irma's life could easily be saved if she had a scan to determine what her brain injuries were and laboratory tests to monitor mineral imbalances caused by her abdominal wounds

Photograph: Oleg Popov/Reuter

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Gerald Smith head of St Peter's School, Northampton, lighting a candle at a 12-hour silent vigil for Bosnia in Trafalgar Square yesterday. Mr Smith, who led a relief convoy to Bosnia earlier this year, hopes that cities throughout Europe will hold similar vigils. In Sarajevo, General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military leader, takes a break during negotiations

Photographs: Edward Webb/Tom Pilston

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