Child Rights Focus Means Far-seeing.

Lieutenant (Senior Grade) Papke appreciates the outcome of this aid action in international cooperation: "The word 'impossible' just doesn't exist if all the people who are in one boat row in the same direction."
"Save Arife's life!"
This could be the motto of a current aid action for a Kosovo Albanian girl from the area of responsibility of MNB (South). The remarkable thing is that the cooperation between international military and civil organizations on two continents has finally worked out – despite a lot of foreseeable and unforeseeable organizational, administrative and bureaucratic obstacles.
Arife Zejna and her father Arife turned seven on February 05 and would definitely not live to celebrate her next birthday without a surgical operation. A serious heart defect affects her body, which is already weak. Two German soldiers in particular could not stop thinking about this. For the deputy leader of CIMIC team 2, Lieutenant (Senior Grade) Andreas Papke, and the Deputy PIO, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Pütger, Arife's rescue became a matter which was really dear to their hearts – although they have a busy routine schedule. The aim was to have the girl undergo operation at a special clinic in the United States. The complicated operation can be conducted neither at Prizren hospital nor at the ultramodern German field hospital. Arife's diagnosis was discussed at the weekly clinic conference of the two institutions. In Kosovo, however, Arife was beyond help.
Thanks to the contact between the field hospital and an international aid organization, it was possible to find a place for Arife at a New York clinic.
On March 02, the operation was scheduled for May 28. The big problem now was to organize the flight to that special clinic in New York. The field hospital's medical liaison officer, Lieutenant Colonel (MC) Dr. Leonhardt, brought his fellow soldier, the lieutenant (senior grade), on to the scene. In his CIMIC jeep, Papke went to the village of Glavica, which is about one hour from the camp. There, in a totally unfurnished house, he made first contact with Arife's family, meeting Arife's 60-year-old invalid father and her mother, who was traumatized by the war.
The navy officer acted immediately and prudently: In cooperation with UNMIK and the American consulate, he quickly negotiated the obstacles posed by extensive passport applications and time-consuming visa formalities. Using his personal E-mail account, he was in permanent contact with the aid organization. He also got in touch with US major Otto A. Busher of Task Force Falcon, who was to find someone to accompany Arife as well as a place for her on a military aircraft. But the undertaking was in danger of suffering a setback: Owing to an extremely great demand for transportation, the US Air Force was not able to provide any capacity, and a civilian flight would have cost 1,690 euros. This amount is astronomically large for Arife's parents, who are wretchedly poor and bear the mark of war.
Papke talked to Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Pütger, whose social skills he appreciates very much. The Deputy PIO knew what to do. The soldiers in Prizren are supporting humanitarian activities by purchasing the PIC-edited photo and video CD, which serves as a souvenir of the 4th Task Contingent. 1.40 euros of the purchase price are used for humanitarian purposes. The head of the PIC, Lieutenant Colonel Geier, was also aware that the money could not be spent in any better way. So he made the donations available. Meanwhile, Pütger had personally started to look for a person who would accompany little Arife. This person needed to be a US soldier, both fond of children and trustworthy, and needed to speak Arife's native language. Enquiries had to be made, meetings had to be conducted. With the help of Major Busher, Pütger eventually found the right man, 32-year-old US captain Jared Cleary.
Having made friends with little Arife, the two German sailors went to Glavica again – this time with air tickets in their pockets. Jared Cleary came along as well and, on meeting Arife, presented the girl with a cuddly Army teddy bear. The two got on well together straight away. Everything had been arranged, guardianship-related matters and liability exclusion had been settled when, on the eve of the life-saving flight, the airline communicated their hitherto pending decision that Arife was allowed to fly to New York only in the company of a doctor. Had everything been in vain, having left nothing but shattered remains – as the Commander of the CIMIC Battalion, Colonel Graf, aptly characterized the situation? The PIC and CIMIC, however, were not ready to give up. Lieutenant (Senior Grade) Papke called an employee of an aid organization. Her brother is a doctor in Jakova, has a valid visa and was off duty at the time. That was the solution! Everything was then settled within a few hours.
On Saturday, May 18, 2002, Arife left for the United States, accompanied by the doctor from Jakova.
This aid action is an example of outstanding cooperation and gives us reason to hope for further successful activities within the framework of the Kosovo mission*. The field hospital, the PIC and CIMIC worked hand in glove as well as in conjunction with agencies of the American NATO partner, the civil US administration and UNMIK. The cooperation with foreign aid organizations worked out as well. Especially in his capacity as a CIMIC man, Lieutenant (Senior Grade) Papke appreciates the outcome of the aid action: "The word 'impossible' just doesn't exist if all the people who are in one boat row in the same direction." His special thanks go to the soldiers of the 4th Contingent, who made this success possible by purchasing souvenir software.
Text & Photo by NATO/KFOR, May 2002. Writer, Holger Schwill. Photographer, Kaiser.
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* A follow-up seven months later, example on KFOR's Child Rights activities within the framework of the Kosovo mission. Link to be opened in new window.