Afghan chil­dren treated for heart dis­ease

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By MAO WEI­HUA in Urumqi and WANG XIAOYU in Bei­jing Con­tact the writ­ers at wangx­i­aoyu@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

A hun­dred chil­dren from Afghanistan with con­gen­i­tal heart de­fects have re­ceived med­i­cal treat­ment in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion in four batches since Septem­ber last year as part of the Red Cross So­ci­ety of China’s for­eign hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sion.

On Wed­nes­day, 18 young Afghans from the last group who had been hos­pi­tal­ized at the First Hos­pi­tal of Xin­jiang Med­i­cal Univer­sity in the re­gion’s cap­i­tal, Urumqi, since late Oc­to­ber, were dis­charged and boarded a plane bound for Kabul, their coun­try’s cap­i­tal.

“Aid from the Red Cross So­ci­ety of China has helped a to­tal of 100 Afghan chil­dren grad­u­ally re­cover and re­lieved them of med­i­cal bur­dens. This is the best gift,” Faizekhuda Faizani, di­rec­tor of re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment at the Afghan Red Cres­cent So­ci­ety, said at a gather­ing held by the Chi­nese Red Cross in Urumqi on Tues­day, ahead of the chil­dren’s de­par­ture.

Wang Ru­peng, vice-pres­i­dent of the Chi­nese so­ci­ety, said the mis­sion, funded by its Silk Road Fra­ter­nity Fund, aims at strength­en­ing peo­pleto-peo­ple ties be­tween China and Afghanistan, a coun­try in­volved in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

“We will fur­ther mo­bi­lize our hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sources to ad­vance the devel­op­ment of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, fra­ter­nity and pub­lic health un­der the frame­work of the BRI,” he said.

The mis­sion, Wang said, be­gan in June last year, when the Red Cross learned that in­ad­e­quate med­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture cou­pled with do­mes­tic un­rest had put the safety and health of Afghan civil­ians, es­pe­cially chil­dren, at risk.

“More than 7,000 Afghan chil­dren in need of treat­ment for con­gen­i­tal heart de­fects were reg­is­tered with the Afghan Red Cres­cent So­ci­ety,” he said.

Two months later, in Au­gust, an aid team from the Chi­nese Red Cross was sent to Kabul to ex­am­ine young pa­tients. Dur­ing the visit, it signed a col­lab­o­ra­tion memo with its Afghan coun­ter­part, promis­ing to treat 100 chil­dren. The first group of 21 pa­tients was soon trans­ferred to the hos­pi­tal in Xin­jiang.

Three groups ar­rived in Xin­jiang in April, July and Oc­to­ber. As of Wed­nes­day, all but three Afghans in re­cov­ery had re­turned to their na­tive coun­try.

Ma Songfeng, who heads the pe­di­atric surgery and pe­di­atric car­di­ol­ogy de­part­ments at the hos­pi­tal, said dif­fer­ent lan­guages and di­etary habits posed chal­lenges at the be­gin­ning.

“We were con­cerned about their re­cov­ery be­cause they ate very lit­tle,” he said. “So nu­tri­tion ex­perts at the hos­pi­tal de­signed a va­ri­ety of kid’s meals based on Afghan eat­ing habits.”

The chil­dren’s ap­petites re­cov­ered thanks to the tai­lored meals.

Naz­i­ful­lah Rah­mani, an Afghan mother who lost her third daugh­ter to heart dis­ease in 2010, is grate­ful that her sec­ond daugh­ter, who was di­ag­nosed with a con­gen­i­tal heart de­fect in 2014, ben­e­fited from the med­i­cal project.

“Af­ter the surgery, I called my fam­ily in Afghanistan to say that the treat­ment went well, and they burst into tears of joy,” she said. “We hope to re­cip­ro­cate the Red Cross So­ci­ety of China’s kind­ness, be­cause the project has given my child a sec­ond chance to live. I also hope the so­ci­ety will help more chil­dren in Afghanistan, where a great num­ber still suf­fer from heart dis­ease.”

The Chi­nese Red Cross has pro­vided hu­man­i­tar­ian aid in more than 20 coun­tries in­volved in the BRI since the Silk Road Fra­ter­nity Fund was set up in Fe­bru­ary last year. The chal­lenges in­volved in tun­nel­ing through ground un­der the sea are greater than un­der a river be­cause of the depth and wa­ter pres­sure.

Jiaozhou Bay

LIU XIN / CHINA NEWS SER­VICE

A nurse in­ter­acts with a girl from Afghanistan who has con­gen­i­tal heart dis­ease at The First Af­fil­i­ated Hos­pi­tal of Xin­jiang Med­i­cal Univer­sity in Urumqi, Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion, on Tues­day. The Red Cross So­ci­ety of China has ar­ranged free cor­rec­tive surgery for 100 Afghan chil­dren with the con­di­tion.

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