Restart of Medical Evacuations
GENEVA (AP) _ A month-old boy with a heart defect has been airlifted out of Sarajevo now that the United Nations has received money to evacuate gravely ill people from the former Yugoslavia.
The Bosnian newborn was the first person to benefit from the restored U.N. program, which has transported 1,350 seriously sick and wounded people over the past year for medical treatment abroad, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration said Friday.
The program, which includes people from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, was suspended in mid-August because it didn’t have enough money. The United States, Norway and Sweden then contributed a total of $500,000 to the program, run by the International Organization for Migration in cooperation with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Eighty-eight people in dire need of medical care are on the waiting list for evacuation from Bosnia. They include 35 especially urgent cases in the eastern Muslim enclave of Gorazde, said Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee group.
Some have badly infected wounds received during the Serb bombardments last spring, and others have illnesses such as cancer that cannot be treated in Bosnia’s poorly equipped medical facilities.
An additional 148 people in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro need medical care, but the International Organization for Migration is still searching for beds for them in foreign hospitals.
The Bosnian baby, Faris Cengic, left Thursday on his way to a hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, for open-heart surgery. Despite being on oxygen, his breathing problems became more serious, and he underwent an operation in Ancona, Italy, a stopover point for most of the medical evacuees. He is doing better, said Regina Boucault, spokeswoman for the program.
The United Nations refugee agency identifies patients who cannot be treated in Bosnian hospitals, and the International Organization for Migration arranges for transport abroad and finds hospital beds.
When the organization suspended the program, it said $1 million was needed to operate until the end of the year. In addition to the $500,000 already collected, Boucault said Denmark and Italy have promised to contribute $400,000 to see the program through the year’s end.
Boucault said this would be enough money to evacuate all those in dire need of medical care ″if there is no major crisis″ in the former Yugoslavia.