Their happy faces say it all. Despite having spent long hours travelling aboard an aeroplane, these two girls look around with amazement and their smiles never disappear. Alma and Alizar, aged four and 11, respectively, arrived in Malaga from Syria last Saturday in order to receive treatment for their illnesses, thanks to the Asociación Palestino-Andalusí para la Infancia (APAINF), a collaborative association between Andalucía and Palestine, which works to improve and develop education and social services in the Middle-Eastern state.
The youngest, Alma, has leukaemia. The plane touched down at nine in the morning and by 5.30pm Alma was admitted to the Materno children's hospital to begin tests and the necessary treatment. She has travelled from Syria with her mother, who is very grateful for this opportunity. Due to the war in their country, the family have been displaced from their home to the countryside on the outskirts of Damascus.
Alma's difficulties were aggravated by the fact that she is a Syrian Christian living in a predominantly Arab area. "She struggles over there, because she is a girl, she is sick and she is a Christian," explains Rafael Aldehuela, president of APAINF.
Alizar is also Syrian. She suffers from thalassaemia, a hereditary blood disorder which means her body produces fewer red blood cells. At just 11 years of age, Alizar has already passed through two refugee camps, after the first was completely destroyed. Now, she and her family live in another camp, situated in Lebanon. In Malaga she is accompanied by her aunt, Amal, since her mother was injured during a bombing and cannot travel. On Thursday Alizar attended an appointment at the Quirón Hospital to begin testing so that specialists can diagnose and treat her condition.
The lives of both girls have so far been marked by trauma and hardship, but now they have an opportunity for something better. However, not every child is so lucky. "We will stay here all the time they need. Until they cure them," says Rafael Aldehuela.
APAINF has covered every cost during this process since the families are of humble backgrounds, with just enough money to eat, according to the president of the association. "We count on anonymous donations and doctors who work for free," explains Aldehuela. This year, the association has helped 13 children travel to Spain for treatment or operations. Furthermore, they have a permanent headquarters within a refugee camp in Lebanon, where, as well as lending aid, they are closer cases like those of Alizar and Alma. "We have a lot of children on the waiting list that we are hoping to help," says the president of APAINF.