Monday, February 2, 2009

"We thank God every day"

Ali looks tired - worn down by his troubles. He looks quietly desperate, too. It is easy to understand why.

Ali, his wife and their 2 youngest children fled Iraq in 2005 when Iranian Shia militia threatened them with death if they did not leave their government-owned rental house. Ali and his family are Sunna. With the borders to Iran unprotected after the US invasion, the south where Basra lies - already with a large percentage of Shia sympathetic to Iran - became even more so. Ali tells us that, before the invasion, there were many Shia and Sunna living side-by-side with no problems between them but now, the Iranian Shia are the problem.

Ali was an ambulance driver in Iraq. He has not worked since he entered Jordan. They receive a monthly cash grant from UNHCR of 170JD. Their rent for a one-room apartment is 65JD. This is one of the very lowest rent catagories and I can guess the appalling condition of their apartment by others I have seen that rent at this rate. Ali, his wife and three children - Mustafa (16), Sumyah (8 years), and 2 year old Omar all live in this one room.

Sumyah attends school but Mustafa only attended three months of school this year because, once an Iraqi refugee child reaches age 16, he is ineligible to attend free public school here. Instead, he now works 7 days a week, 8 hours a day at a small market. His wages are 25 JD per week. He looks much younger than his age and it is hard to imagine that this young boy carries such a burden.

But Ali is here because he is desperate that his daughter get medical help. He tells us that she has "Wolf infection" and shows us scanned copies of photos of her. Since giving birth to her first child 4 months ago her health has rapidly degenerated. Huge patches of her hair is falling out, she is weak and dizzy. Sometimes she bleeds from her mouth. He said that this may damage her liver, cause heart problems and brain damage. Ali tells us that the doctors in Basra say they cannot treat her and there is no cure. Now, he said, she called today to tell him that she has a tumor in her mouth.

Ali looks worried and mentions the high number of cancers in Basra since the use of Depleted Uranium in weaponry by the US - first during the Gulf War and then again, in the invasion.

Ali was able to procure a visa for Zaineb and her husband to come to Jordan to seek treatment and they will stay in Ali's already crowded home while they are here.

He hopes that his daughter's life can be saved. He promises he will bring her to meet us and we promise to try to help - insha'allah (God willing) - if we can.