Subject: AGE: Birthday baby shelters from Dili gangs
Birthday baby shelters from Dili gangs
Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin
January 30, 2007
The East Timorese baby whose life was saved by Sydney doctors spent her first birthday yesterday sheltering from gang fighting.
Maria Soares' parents fled to a clinic in Dili's Bario Pite suburb when gang members started attacking each other with rocks late last Sunday.
Last night, the family and about 30 other people were still sheltering at the clinic, where doctors treat up to 300 of Dili's poor every day.
Maria's father, Fidal Dos Santos, said he wanted to take his family home but "we are scared they are going to burn our house down".
"There are many people fighting … we don't know which group they are from or why they are fighting," he said.
The Age revealed in April last year that Maria, who had a hole in her heart, was close to death because doctors in East Timor could not perform what is a routine operation in many Australian hospitals. She was an emaciated 2.6 kilograms, and a doctor, Dan Murphy, was barely keeping her alive as she struggled to breathe.
Dr Murphy's Bario Pite Clinic was then swamped with offers from Australia to save Maria's life. Doctors at the Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick performed a five-hour operation after the Rotary-funded organisation Reaching Overseas with Medical Aid for Children flew the baby and her mother, Lorencia, to Sydney.
Maria developed kidney and lung complications and spent six weeks in hospital before returning to Dili in September.
Mr Dos Santos said the family celebrated Maria's birthday by cooking eggs at the clinic.
Asked about Maria's health, Mr Dos Santos said: "Her health is good and she is strong."
Clinic staff say that gangs have been fighting each other in the suburb for a week. Thousands of soldiers and police from Australia and other countries have been unable stop gang violence since they arrived in the country amid upheaval last May.
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