9 June 2016

'Admad is top priority'

SOS Children’s Villages Hungary provides medical assistance to young refugees

For many families, the journey to Europe was a difficult one. Photographer: Joris Lugtigheid

Abdullah and his family have been deported from Sweden to Hungary after a journey across Europe. The young Iraqi’s priority is to find a cure for his younger brother, Ahmad, who is suffering from a blood disorder.

Ahmad’s illness, a genetic blood disorder called thalassemia, played a major role in the family’s decision to leave Iraq in August 2014. After his father’s death four years ago, Abdullah became the head of his family and took his mother and two younger brothers on a journey to and across Europe. Their goal was to reach Sweden, where Abdullah’s older sister is living, and to find a cure for Ahmad, 16.
 
“There are many reasons why we left Iraq – the war, the existence of ISIS – but the most important reason was that it was difficult to get medical care for Ahmad”, Abdullah explains. “Our sister married and moved to Sweden. That’s why our goal was Sweden. In the end, it didn’t work out. We were deported to Hungary in February because our fingerprints were registered here.”
 
The journey to Sweden was a long one and involved travelling across Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Denmark and finally Sweden.
 
“It was a big decision, because once the trip had started, there was no turning back because of Ahmad’s illness”, Abdullah says. “It was stressful to decide which road to take, whom to follow.”
 
“We didn’t know the road would be so difficult. You give your money to the smugglers, you trust them, and even if it’s too difficult for yourself or your mother and brothers, there’s no turning back. You are in the hands of the smugglers.”
 
“In Sweden, we were happy”, Abdullah continues. His 11-year-old brother Mohammad went to school and got education, Ahmad started his treatment, and then, suddenly, the deportation came.
 

Abdullah and SOS Children's Villages' interpreter and translator Marton. Photo: Marko Mägi

The family now lives in an open camp for refugees in Bicske, some 30 km west of Budapest. The camp is overcrowded. Officially, it has the capacity for 464 people, but more than 800 people are living there. “It’s a difficult situation for people here”, Abdullah says. “But when I see Marton, I’m happy. We are friends, I’m happy to see people from SOS Children’s Villages. He is my first friend in Hungary. He is so positive and this is helping us.”
 

Marton Bisztrai, a translator from SOS Children’s Villages Hungary, modestly says that working with children is part of his job. “It is very rewarding to work here because you help people get better.”
 

SOS Children’s Villages Hungary is also working to find a therapy for Ahmad. Dr Katalin Berend, a retired paediatrician who is working with SOS Children’s Villages to provide medical services to refugee children, says that the treatment Ahmad needs to keep his genetic disease under control is quite expensive.
 

Dr Katalina Berend, a retired paediatrician, works with SOS Children's Villages Hungary to provide health services to young refugees. Photo: Marko Mägi
“In short, his red blood cells do not live as long as they should. This leads to not enough oxygen in blood and too much iron in the body. Iron is stored in the organs – in the lungs, the liver, etc. It is very expensive to remove the iron: about 1,600 euros per month only for medicine. And this is only a temporary solution to keep Ahmad alive.”
 

Ahmad has had numberless transfusions already. One of them caused Hepatitis C. Luckily, it is not too serious at the moment. “Bone transplant surgery could theoretically help the boy”, Dr Berend says.
 

For Abdullah, his brother Ahmad is top priority. “I’m not thinking about my personal future, but about my family’s future”, he says. “The most important person is Ahmad. He and everybody in our family have lost two years of their lives; we also lost all the money we had saved. Without the doctor here in Bicske, Ahmad would be dead already.”
 
All names are changed to protect people’s privacy.

 

Read more about SOS Children's Villages' work with refugees

Read more about SOS Children's Villages' work in Hungary