Monaco rallies to help sick refugee children in Syria

News Stories, 3 March 2009

© UNHCR/J.Wreford
Refugees at a health centre in Damascus. Monaco is helping sick refugee children in Syria.

DAMASCUS, Syria, March 3 (UNHCR) Two seriously ill refugees in Syria are expected to be flown this summer to Monaco for surgery under a project launched to mark the 50th birthday last year of Monaco's ruler, Prince Albert II.

The two were among a group of children examined in Damascus last week by two visiting Monégasque doctors, François Bourlon, a cardio-thoracic paediatrician, and orthopaedic surgeon Tristan Lascar. Their mission was made possible with the help of the UN refugee agency and the Monaco government.

UNHCR staff and Syrian health officials prepared a list of about 30 refugee children, including Somalis and Iraqis, in urgent need of medical care that could not be provided in Syria. The doctors saw 10 children at the Al-Zahera Clinic suffering from orthopaedic or cardiological ailments, and identified three as priority cases.

Two, aged eight and three, will be sent to Monaco for treatment later this year, while the third could be operated on at the clinic, which will soon become the largest paediatric medical facility in Syria.

The two children, one of whom needs heart surgery, will be flown to Monaco by the French non-governmental organization, Aviation sans Frontières, which works with UNHCR in resettlement cases. Once in the principality, the young patients will be hosted by local families, but will be in regular touch with their parents back in Syria.

Adam Musa, UNHCR's senior public health officer in Syria, said that convincing the parents to let their children go to Monaco alone will be very difficult. The two surgeons said they were ready to return to Syria for further consultations and to conduct operations in Damascus on refugee children suffering from ailments within their sphere of expertise.

They also said they were happy to share their skills with Syrian colleagues, so that they could help more children in the future. "We met a good medical team and rapidly found a common language that enabled us to share our knowledge with our Syrian counterparts," said Doctor Bourlon, adding that this would make it easier to identify children in need of their help in the future.

The medical evacuation programme comes almost a year after various charity groups marked Prince Albert's 50th birthday by raising funds to enable the medical evacuation of sick children from poor countries to receive surgery in Monaco.

Also last year, the prince said he would like to develop stronger political and humanitarian ties between his small, but wealthy principality and the UN refugee agency.

The Principality of Monaco, situated on the French Riviera, is the world's second smallest independent nation. It has a surface area of 196 hectares (485 acres) and is home to around 32,000 people, making it one of the most densely populated countries on earth.

By Marie-Ange Lescure in Damascus, Syria

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Children

Almost half the people of concern to UNHCR are children. They need special care.

Refworld – Children

This Special Feature on Child Protection is a comprehensive source of relevant legal and policy documents, practical tools and links to related websites.

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis

Public Health

The health of refugees and other displaced people is a priority for UNHCR.

Health crisis in South Sudan

There are roughly 105,000 refugees in South Sudan's Maban County. Many are at serious health risk. UNHCR and its partners are working vigorously to prevent and contain the outbreak of malaria and several water-borne diseases.

Most of the refugees, especially children and the elderly, arrived at the camps in a weakened condition. The on-going rains tend to make things worse, as puddles become incubation areas for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Moderately malnourished children and elderly can easily become severely malnourished if they catch so much as a cold.

The problems are hardest felt in Maban County's Yusuf Batil camp, where as many as 15 per cent of the children under 5 are severely malnourished.

UNHCR and its partners are doing everything possible to prevent and combat illness. In Yusuf Batil camp, 200 community health workers go from home to home looking educating refugees about basic hygene such as hand washing and identifying ill people as they go. Such nutritional foods as Plumpy'nut are being supplied to children who need them. A hospital dedicated to the treatment of cholera has been established. Mosquito nets have been distributed throughout the camps in order to prevent malaria.

Health crisis in South Sudan

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are children who have sought shelter in urban areas with their families. Unlike those in camps, refugees living in towns and cities in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Jordan often find it difficult to gain access to aid and protection. In a refugee camp, it is easier for humanitarian aid organizations such as UNHCR to provide shelter and regular assistance, including food, health care and education. Finding refugees in urban areas, let alone helping them, is no easy task.

In Iraq, about 100,000 of the 143,000 Syrian refugees are believed to be living in urban areas - some 40 per cent of them are children aged under 18 years. The following photographs, taken in the northern city of Erbil by Brian Sokol, give a glimpse into the lives of some of these young urban refugees. They show the harshness of daily life as well as the resilience, adaptability and spirit of young people whose lives have been overturned in the past two years.

Life is difficult in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The cost of living is high and it is difficult to find work. The refugees must also spend a large part of their limited resources on rent. UNHCR and its partners, including the Kurdish Regional Government, struggle to help the needy.

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

The Children of Harmanli Face a Bleak Winter

Since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011, more than 2 million people have fled the violence. Many have made their way to European Union countries, finding sanctuary in places like Germany and Sweden. Others are venturing into Europe by way of Bulgaria, where the authorities struggle to accommodate and care for some 8,000 asylum-seekers, many of whom are Syrian. More than 1,000 of these desperate people, including 300 children, languish in an overcrowded camp in the town of Harmanli, 50 kilometres from the Turkish-Bulgarian border. These people crossed the border in the hope of starting a new life in Europe. Some have travelled in family groups; many have come alone with dreams of reuniting in Europe with loved ones; and still others are unaccompanied children. The sheer number of people in Harmanli is taxing the ability of officials to process them, let alone shelter and feed them. This photo essay explores the daily challenges of life in Harmanli.

The Children of Harmanli Face a Bleak Winter

Iraq: Preparing for Winter in DohukPlay video

Iraq: Preparing for Winter in Dohuk

Efforts are under way in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries to prepare refugees and the internally displaced for winter. But UNHCR remains deeply concerned that a $58.45 million funding shortfall could leave as many as a million people out in the cold.
Ethiopia: Far From Home Play video

Ethiopia: Far From Home

Nyabuka Lam arrived in Pagak, Ethiopia in September after escaping armed men who shot her three children and husband back in her home country, South Sudan. After walking for 15 days to reach the safety of Pagak, she is now finally on a path to recovery.
South Sudan: Grandma Abuk's ChildrenPlay video

South Sudan: Grandma Abuk's Children

Years of violence and bloodshed in South Sudan robbed Abuk of her seven children. When fighting returned last year, the old lady fled anew with her grandchildren, hampered by deteriorating eyesight.