Greek, Turkish Cypriots give blood to save child

NICOSIA (AFP) – In a rare show of bicommunal cooperation, hundreds of Greek and Turkish Cypriots queued up to give blood yesterday on the UN-manned «Green Line» to help save a 5-year-old girl suffering from leukemia. Bicommunal groups organized the blood donation to help the Turkish-Cypriot child, Jale Sakaoglu, who is in urgent need of a donor for a bone marrow transplant. Physicians from international aid organization Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) have volunteered to collect blood samples throughout a five-day drive. «Today’s response shows that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can cooperate together when they want to,» said Turkish-Cypriot doctor Lek Yazman. A Greek-Cypriot organizer, Marios Ioannides, estimated that at least 500 people queued on the first day to donate blood at the Ledra Palace hotel, used by the UN, which straddles Nicosia’s Green Line dividing the two communities. The girl’s grandfather, Erdal Ersever, said, «It’s not important whether the donor is Greek or Turkish because our common goal is to save our children.» He said Jale has been suffering from leukemia for the past two years and receives treatment at an Istanbul hospital. She needs a bone marrow transplant within the next three weeks. Among those giving blood was EU Ambassador to Cyprus Adriaan Van de Meer and Cypriot politicians. The public response from both communities is reminiscent of a bid in 2000 to find donors for a Turkish-Cypriot boy and a Greek-Cypriot boy. Turkish-Cypriot teenager Kemal Caragoglu failed to find a marrow donor in time and died, while 6-year-old Andreas Vassiliou survived a marrow transplant and leads a healthy life. That unprecedented appeal to both sides attracted more than 90,000 donors swelling the Cyprus Bone Marrow Registry. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed referendums be held on both sides of the Green Line on March 30 on a reunification plan. The Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders have until Monday to respond to the proposal.

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