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Iraqi Burn Victim Helped By Govt & Private Efforts

Iraqi Burn Victim Helped by Government and Private Efforts

Youssif, the 5-year-old Iraqi victim of an attack involving burning gasoline, is now in the United States receiving medical treatment thanks to close cooperation between the U.S. government, the Cable News Network (CNN) and private U.S. medical groups, says a consular officer formerly stationed in Baghdad.

Jewell Evans, a U.S. diplomat who was assigned to Baghdad from 2006 to 2007, played a key role in facilitating Youssif and his family's departure from Baghdad and their entry into the United States after CNN broadcast a report in August of the attack.

According to consular affairs spokesman Steve Royster, "Jewell made special efforts. Youssif's case is unique in that it is outside normal procedures. Jewell took this case and discovered a way to make this happen."

Youssif was playing outside his home in Baghdad January 15 when masked men grabbed him, poured gasoline on him and set him on fire. The little boy, who was then 4 years old, survived but his face was horribly disfigured. CNN reported the attempted immolation of Youssif August 22 in what has become one of the most widely watched nonbreaking news stories in CNN's history. The report provoked an outpouring of offers to help.

The Children's Burn Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in California that provides support for burn victims, set up a fund to collect donations to cover the living costs for Youssif's family in the United States for the duration of the boy's treatment, which could take up to one year. The foundation has received hundreds of thousands of dollars for Youssif's case. Dr. Peter Grossman, a plastic surgeon at the Grossman Burn Center in California, is leading the medical treatment, which the center is providing free of charge.

When CNN contacted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to request assistance on Youssif's behalf, Evans took the unusual case. She identified a procedure called "humanitarian parole," executed at the discretion of the secretary of homeland security to temporarily admit people to the United States for humanitarian purposes, and pursued this approach because of the necessity for Youssif's parents and infant sister to accompany him.

"They [the family] had gotten so much press coverage that their lives would be in danger if they stayed in Iraq while CNN broadcasts progress reports about Youssif," Evans said. "In addition, which parent would you separate from the 5-year-old child facing life-threatening surgery that would last up to a year?"

Evans coordinated between the Department of Homeland Security, State Department headquarters and the U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Amman, Jordan. On September 11, Youssif and his family arrived in the United States, and the little boy underwent the first of many operations September 20.

After a recent skin graft, complications arose involving extensive bleeding in the facial area that was stanched by Dr. Grossman and his team. CNN has reported that the youngster is in good spirits, continuing with his rehabilitation in the company of his parents and sister.

Evans said that Youssif's visa case is not unique; the U.S. Embassy in Amman has granted 11 visas to Iraqis for medical treatment in the United States during 2007. She added that nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. military have taken Iraqis to countries in the region for medical treatment.

Evans said that Iraqis interested in coming to the United States for medical treatment or other reasons should consult the Web sites of the U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Amman and the travel section of the State Department Web site.


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