Sick child whose brother illegally entered Italy treated at Sheik Zayyed Hospital

The chronically sick boy whose 13-year-old brother entered Italy illegally in search of medical treatment for him has been given blood tests and treatment at Sheikh Zayyed Hospital in Egypt.

Ashraf Marei, who suffers from a blood disorder, has been given treatment to hold him over for the next month while the blood samples are anlyzed and the results returned, according his uncle Adel Marei.

The news suggests that the sick boy will be receiving treatment for his condition in Egypt, rather than traveling to Italy for it, as many had speculated.

According to reports in Italian media, Ahmed Marei crossed to Italy by boat in search of help after his family realized they could not afford treatment for their other son Ashraf, estimated at LE50,000.

The case is potentially embarrassing for Egypt, apparently highlighting the poor state of public health provision, and the two governments have been seeking a solution since the story broke two weeks ago.

On August 18, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that the Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence was willing to treat Ashraf.

Egypt's Health Minister Ahmed Emad released a statement the following day urging the family to contact him personally so that he could arrange for treatment in Egypt. Emad said that Egypt has the means to provide its citizens with all the medical care they need.

Later that day, Abu Zeid released a statement urging the family to listen to Emad and to seek the help they need at home, not from outside the country.

The boys' uncle, Adel, also said on Tuesday that Ahmed was doing fine in Italy and would be remaining there for the time being.

"Ahmed, who is currently in Italy, called us recently and reassured us that his condition was good, and that the Italian authorities have given him full care," he said.

Ahmed has joined a sports club to practice athletics and has been admitted to an orphanage where an interpreter has been provided, the uncle said, adding that the boy will be educated in Italy.

Ahmed's  journey to Italy started in the town of Rashid in the Nile Delta, where he paid human traffickers to take him across the Mediterranean in a boat. He had to swim the last 10 km to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where he was picked up by the Italian authorities, according to Italian media.

On questioning, he revealed that he was not claiming refugee status but simply traveling abroad to seek help for his sick brother, who suffers from a deficiency of platelets in his blood.

All through the journey, Ahmed preserved his brother’s medical documents and blood tests by placing them between his clothes, media reports said.

Ahmed said that his family had already paid a large sum of money for a preliminary procedure to prevent his brother from dying, but now another operation is needed, costing about LE50,000. The father’s annual income is only LE3,000.

Since hitting the headlines, Ahmed's story has touched the hearts of several prominent Italian doctors, who have agreed to perform any medical procedures needed to save his brother's life.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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