Doctor slates UN 'gods': The Sarajevo medic who first treated Irma Hadzimuratovic tells Marcus Tanner of his thanks to the West and anger at the UN

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The Independent Online
THE DOCTOR who battled to save the life of little Irma Hadzimuratovic thanked Western countries last night for accepting 41 desperately sick patients from Sarajevo, and strongly criticised United Nations bureaucrats for failing to cut the red tape over evacuation.

Dr Edo Kakanjac, 36, was working late in Sarajevo's state hospital when he heard the news that Britain would take in 20 wounded from the Bosnian capital. His room was pitch dark. The hospital has been without electricity and running water for two months.

'I am happy for all those children who are leaving right now, but that is not what needs to be done,' he said. 'We must get the UN to change the system of evacuation.'

Dr Kakanjac condemned UN refugee bureaucrats in Sarajevo who tied up Irma's case with red tape, and stopped her from getting out when she was still well enough to travel.

'The UN in this city ride around (in) their armoured cars, eat fresh meat every day and always have water and electricity. They behave like gods, and decide which of us will live and die. If Irma had been in the UN she would have been out in half an hour. Why are their lives more important than Irma's? Why do they always have electricity and we do not?'

He said he was rebuffed by UN health officials when he pleaded for Irma to be taken out of the war-zone to a hospital where she could be properly treated. 'They looked at their watches and said the medical evacuation committee was busy.'

A blaze of publicity by journalists in Sarajevo over Irma's plight shamed Western governments into action.

Dr Kakanjac, the father of two young daughters, said he was concerned as soon as she was brought in. A Serb shell exploded six yards away from her, hitting her in the face, stomach and spine.

'When they brought her in, she was a beautiful five-year-old, a wonderful girl. When she arrived she was so quiet, just her eyes moving. She was not frightened, just curious. You could see life just draining away from her. It was something I have never seen before.'

Dr Kakanjac said if the awful conditions in Sarajevo's hospitals were improved, there would be no need for expensive mass evacuations of sick patients. 'We have to sterilise our instruments by boiling them on wood fires.'

Doctors at the hospital have to feel their way up the dark staircases and bring in water in buckets. Many of the windows have been blown out by Serb shells. Doctors are angry that the conditions in which they have worked for 16 months have been publicised in the West, but to no effect.

The 41 evacuees include a 14 month- old girl with a spinal tumour. UN health officials last night said they faced a problem locating all 41 cases, four of them children. Most of them are at home and only four have working telephones. They will have to be found and their medical histories translated into English before they can travel.

A four-member medical team working in two vehicles will be travelling around Sarajevo looking for the patients. One badly injured boy with a multi-perforated bowel has not been located for some time and is belived to have changed address.

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