Since September I have often spoken in whatsapp with this 22-year-old boy from Darfur in Libya who, to escape an attack by militias who had called him a “slave”, for real fear of being enslaved, had been the victim of a trivial accident: he fell into a chasm, lost consciousness and suffered multiple fractures, in the left leg, in the neck (fourth vertebra), in the left hand.
One day in October he was in hospital and, as happens on these occasions, he became friend with a couple who was in the hospital for their baby girl. The boy immediately thought of helping them, because the girl, a Sudanese girl, by chance born on the same day as I was born, was very very ill. And his Italian contact, that is me, was gathering information from refugees in Libya with health problems, to put them on a priority list. He then spent his time in hospital collecting the information on this child’s situation and translating it, reconstructing the story of her short troubled life and taking pictures of the medical reports… He also sent me a photo of the child. Very sad. I think I am looking at her only now, 3 months later, because it is difficult to look at: her little face expressed in that photo the pain she felt.
The baby was born healthy, but after 3 months, when it was time to vaccinate her, they realized that something was wrong. The girl was weak and pale. She received a transfusion. They took her to the children’s hospital of the Al-Safwa Hospital in Tripoli. Looking at her reports to understand something in order to be able to translate them, I realized that she has been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, MDS, also called pre-leukemia. She also had problems with her abdomen: it was soft and prolapsed. Other tests reveal a suspicion of Langerhans histiocytosis, ICL, a rare disease (prevalence of 1-2 / 100,000) that can involve all age groups with a peak incidence in early childhood, belonging to the histiocytosis group. It is characterized by the formation, in the tissues involved, of inflammatory infiltrates containing Langerhans cells. The clinical presentation and prognosis are very heterogeneous, varying between uni-focal skin or bone lesions that can spontaneously regress, to life-threatening disseminated disease. There is also the report of a biopsy made by the Bioscientia Institut fur Medizinische Diagnostik laboratory in Karlsfeld, Germany, which is in contact with Aloom Ahia Medical and Laboratory Service in Tripoli.
Yesterday there was a chance to have some sick people in Libya access other medical examinations and I thought about the child. The boy has left the country and has not been reachable for a few days, but I have his father’s phone number. I send him a message to ask about the child’s current situation. He replies that he too hasn’t heard from the boy since then, that they were trying to communicate with the asylum commission of UNHCR and presented them all medical reports of the baby girl. They replied very late and “we lost the baby on the 9th of this month”, that “now there is a deep wound inside us, and her mother is completely devastated. Thank you for asking about our condition ”. “We are now experiencing pain and difficult conditions here.”
He continues saying “… now we are in a difficult situation, here I have lost my daughter and I am afraid for my other children (two boys of 6 and 3 years). For the last seventy days my mother was with the child in the hospital, I locked the children in the house and went to look for work to feed them and when I returned at night I found them crying and I know that it is wrong to leave them alone, but I didn’t have other choice. Now at night, their sleep is restless, and they have episodes of sleepwalking and bedwetting, their psychological state is difficult. Help us get out of here if possible ”.
When I ask if they ever tried to leave Libya, he replies that when he wanted to, they stole his money before he could go to sea. Furthermore, “the little girl needed medical treatment in the hospital: we were told that she needed an expensive drug to give to foreigners (they are not people registered by the government). And when we needed a blood donor we were able to find a compatible donor from our country who could have saved the baby, but when we went to the blood bank they told us they would not accept blood donations from foreigners, that we had to find Libyan donors. We don’t know Libyans well enough to ask them to donate blood, even though we have sought them out. The doctors also told us that there was no more room in the hospital to hold the baby for so long that we had to take her to a private hospital. Private hospitals are expensive and we had no money to go there ”. The desperate family also turned to UNHCR and and presented them with all the medical reports of the child, in order to have medical or economic help to be able to save the child. But they received no reply: “… they did nothing to save my little girl’s life. We are saddened now because we could not cure her, ”says the father.
With a terrible and rare disease, in a country in chaos, subjected to tests that gave unclear diagnoses, in hospitals where they couldn’t provide her with the care she needed because of the situation of the country, because the blood of non-Libyans it is not acceptable for blood banks, but it is permissible to let a non-Libyan girl die. A refugee girl belonging to a family registered as a UNHCR refugee, UNHCR that show pride on saving children, even teaching that there is humanity.
But there was not enough humanity to save a 2-year-old girl, or even to make her suffer less, to evacuate her and her family to a country where she could receive free treatment and medicines necessary to alleviate the terrible suffering she suffered. After that, no one went to his family to apologize for the tragedy they all experienced, parents and two little brothers, without receiving either comfort or help.
And no one is helping them now … if we could tell them “Come, there is an evacuation flight from the Libyan hell ready to welcome you …” that would be a day when there is humanity in this world.
Not for now. There is no signature from a minister, there is no political will, it is not a priority… she was just a child. One girl less.