A 9-month-old baby girl, who was aboard the C-17 military plane carrying Afghan refugees from Germany, has died shortly after landing in Philadelphia. Chris Mitchell of the Department of Defense confirmed that this was the first known death among the evacuees hoping to have a second life in the U.S.
Reports cited that the baby was with her father when emergency medical workers attempted to revive her at the Philadelphia International Airport. Members of the Philadelphia Police Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents were informed beforehand of a medical emergency on the plane.
The baby and her father were transported to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where she was pronounced dead. The Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office said that it's still looking into the cause of death.
Nearly 4,000 Afghan Refugees in Philadelphia
From August 28 and September 1, the Philadelphia airport has processed nearly 4,000 Afghan refugees. The U.S. military operations have airlifted over 120,000 people out of the war-torn region, including 5,500 U.S. civilians. In a press statement on September 1, President Joe Biden said that some 200 Americans are still in Afghanistan but will likely remain as many are dual citizens.
Nineteen states in the U.S., including Philadelphia, have opened their airports to the Afghan refugees, who are immediately given food, hygiene kits, medical assistance, and COVID-19 tests upon arrival. After resting, some are transported out of Philadelphia and into a military base in New Jersey.
Some locals question whether state and federal officials should provide assistance to refugees when there are already more than 5,000 homeless people.
Yalda, 39, who arrived in Philadelphia in 2013 and is now working as a translator, said it's very difficult for these refugees to leave everything behind. Many of them still have families trying to get out. She said that it would take years for these refugees to resettle as they will continue to be gripped with fear, especially for their loved ones in Afghanistan. She appealed for the public to consider the trauma these people are going through.
Several organizations have also appealed for donations and volunteers, especially for interpreters who can speak Dari, Farsi, Pashto, or Urdu, to make it easier to help the families displaced by war. Volunteers may sign up with the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps.
Vigilance for Child Brides
Meanwhile, U.S. officials have received reports that some Afghan refugees have entered the country with their child brides in the middle of the chaos. Intake center workers in some army bases in the U.S. said they saw several older men who presented very young women as their wives. Officials in the United Arab Emirates have allegedly asked the U.S. for guidance on handling these cases.
According to reports, while child marriage is recognized in Afghanistan, young Afghan girls have been taken, raped, and forced to marry older men to escape the country. The State Department won't comment on the matter until they have looked into documents as some claims are simply anecdotal.
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