Wounds Of War Bring Afghan Children To Texas, Connecticut
Undated (AP) _ Sixteen Afghan youngsters bearing the scars of war have been brought to the United States for medical treatment.
Nine boys reached Houston on Tuesday, the same day seven other children arrived in Connecticut. In their homeland, Soviet troops and the Soviet-backed government have been fighting Afghan rebels since 1979.
The youths in Texas, selected by the International Red Cross from hospitals or Afghan refugee centers in Pakistan, range in age from 7 to 18 and each has arm or leg injuries. Some left the airplane in wheelchairs, while others limped through the Houston Intercontinental Airport terminal.
″He’s very happy to be in the United States,″ an interpreter said of the youngest child, known only as Bakhtiar. The 7-year-old’s knee was injured when a wall fell on him during a bombing attack.
″He is one of the most fortunate ones,″ said interpreter Mohammed Zia Jahed.
″These things (bombs) are attached to toys, to food, even to leaves,″ said Joanne Herring Davis, the Pakistani consul based in Houston. ″They want children to suffer. This is planned torture.″
″Certainly there is no more worthy cause we can dedicate ourselves to,″ said Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Texas, who helped organize the aid effort. ″Hundreds, thousands, are in need.″
Originally, a dozen youths were slated to be treated in Houston-area hospitals. But three were not healthy enough to make the trip, Wilson said. He said he hopes to eventually have 50 children treated.
It’s uncertain how long the youths will remain in the United States since each has a different medical problem, officials said. Eleven Houston hospitals have volunteered treatment.
Five Connecticut hospitals will provide free treatment to the seven children who are part of a group of 24 brought to the United States by Heal the Children, said Angeles Glick, director of the group’s Northeast chapter. The non-profit group, based in Spokane, Wash., was founded to provide medical care for Third World Children, said Catherine Trembley, its national social service director.
The children, who arrived at Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, have injuries ranging from bullet wounds to bad burns.
Nick Mohamad, 19, has bullet wounds to his elbow. Speaking through a translator, he described his escape from his native village in the middle of the night.
″I heard the shots from the guns...the Russians had surrounded the village. ... They bombarded us and I just started running. I fell and I felt the bullets hit my arm and leg. The blood was rushing out and there were Russians running around me. I pretended I was dead.″
The next morning people from a neighboring village rescued him.
The U.S. State Department selected the children for the trip, and the U.S. Air Force provided the transportation, said Ms. Glick.
An official at the State Department in Washington, D.C., said the McCollum Amendment, passed by Congress this year, allots $10 million for the transportation of human goods and patients affected by war.
Nonprofit organizations then find free medical care. Glick said there have been about 40 children brought here so far and the department hopes to bring more as other free medical services become available.
Pir Mohamad, who will stay with Anne S. Groo of Greenwich, is going to have facial reconstruction to remove a piece of shrapnel from his cheek.
″It was a very moving thing to see kids pulled off the stretchers this morning,″ said Mrs. Groo. ″The blind boy was singing his native songs ... there he was in the back of a strange car in a strange country ... and he was singing away.″