UK doctors offer Navid, two, surgery after he was blown up by Taliban

Boy of two, blown up by the Taliban in Kabul evacuation, is the latest victim of Whitehall’s work from home culture: Great Ormond Street has offered Navid lifechanging surgery – but plodding officials have left him in limbo for months

  • Navid, 2, was paralysed in a terror attack that killed 183 people at Kabul Airport
  • The blast took place on August 26 amid Britain’s evacuation from Afghanistan
  • British surgeons offered to perform surgery could spare Navid from paralysis
  • Yet almost four months later, Navid and his family still remain stranded in Kabul

Navid (pictured), two, was paralysed in the deadly blast at Kabul airport on August 26 that killed 183 people

A toddler paralysed in a terror attack at Kabul Airport during Britain’s chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan is being denied life-changing surgery in the UK by delaying Foreign Office bureaucrats.

The two-year-old boy called Navid and his family were caught in the deadly blast that killed 183 people, including 13 US Marines, on August 26 and which hastened the withdrawal of Western powers from the country.

While his parents and nine-year-old sister escaped unscathed, Navid – whose father had hoisted him on to his shoulders to protect him from the scrum trying to flee the Taliban – was hit by razor-like shrapnel, sustaining appalling injuries to his head and back.

Within hours, British surgeons had offered to perform intricate surgery that could spare the youngster from paralysis.

Foreign Office officials had provided reassurances that they would try to evacuate the boy and his family to Britain.

Yet almost four months later, Navid remains stranded in Kabul as his desperate family pray that his condition will not worsen before experts at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London can operate.

Last night, Navid’s father – who The Mail on Sunday is not naming to avoid the threat of Taliban reprisals – said: ‘We are reaching out our hands to Britain and to God to help us with Navid’s treatment. After enduring this hardship, I and others like me only wish for a normal life as a free human being.’

The Foreign Office was last week hit by devastating claims that bureaucracy and home-working contributed to thousands of desperate Afghans, who might otherwise have been whisked to safety from the Taliban, being left behind. 

They include Navid who, after being injured by the bomb detonated in a crowd by the ISIS-K terror group, was rushed to hospital. 

Afghan doctors saved his life but lacked the skills to carry out the complicated neurosurgery that he requires.

As the youngster lay in hospital, his family appealed to a group of British campaigners for help. 

Navid, whose father hoisted him on to his shoulders (pictured) to protect him from the scrum trying to flee the Taliban, was hit by razor-like shrapnel and sustained appalling injuries

A British diplomat in Washington DC learned of Navid’s plight on August 27 and agreed to help by raising the case with the Foreign Office.

On the same day, Great Ormond Street was contacted and agreed to help if the youngster was brought to the UK.

On the morning of August 28, a Foreign Office official was provided with the details of the consultant at Great Ormond Street willing to perform the surgery – yet the last evacuation flight left later that day without the injured youngster.

Room was found, however, that day for 170 dogs and cats from a Kabul animal sanctuary run by former Royal Marine Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing.

It wasn’t until August 31 that Navid’s family heard again from the Foreign Office.

More than three months on, the toddler remains in Afghanistan where, with each passing day, two pieces of shrapnel embedded beside his spine threaten to make the paralysis that affects the right side of his body permanent. 

Recalling the airport atrocity, Navid’s father said: ‘As we waited in the crowd at Abbey Gate, we were warned of the possibility of a terrorist attack. We were not more than a few metres away when there was a big explosion on our left.

‘After the explosion, body parts and blood were everywhere. I was terrified but I knew I was alive.

‘I found my wife and daughter in the crowd. They were also unharmed. Navid was on my shoulders and I could feel he was alive.

British surgeons offered to perform surgery that could spare Navid from paralysis. But almost four months later, Navid remains stranded in Kabul. Pictured: Kabul airport blast on August 26

‘We escaped via an open canal. The inside of the canal was full of sewage and rubbish and barbed wire that sometimes clung to our feet.’ The family realised Navid’s clothes were soaked with blood. 

‘I felt as if my blood had turned to ice,’ his father said.

A stranger helped to pull the family out of the drainage ditch and they ran to their nearby car, but were blocked by a stampede of terrified people.

Navid’s father sprinted towards the nearest hospital with his son in his arms, until a passing motorcyclist heard his cries and took them there. ‘Thankfully, God kept Navid alive for us,’ his father said.

Navid has been discharged from hospital but the family are forced to move between friends’ homes to evade the Taliban.

Navid’s cries of pain make hiding from patrols more difficult and the youngster associates his injuries with being in his father’s arms so will not embrace him.

‘Mentally we are not in a good state due to what we have endured in Afghanistan,’ said his father. 

‘Not just the bitter memory of Navid being injured, but also the fall of Kabul and the country and the loss of hope for the future.

‘Our current situation is filled with terrible worry and anxiety for what is going on. I have been repeatedly stopped and beaten by the Taliban and their checkpoints.’

Navid’s father is from the Hazaras, a Shia Muslim group which has faced the wrath of the Taliban.

Five years ago, he was kidnapped and beaten by members of the hardline group.

‘On two occasions I was lined up and a mock execution scene was performed,’ he said. ‘I was convinced I was going to die.’ 

Since August 31, when the Foreign Office informed the family in an email that a ‘crisis team open case file’ has been created under Navid’s name, the family and their supporters have faced endless frustration.

Three weeks elapsed before their request for an update was answered and even then it was only for an official to say that she was on holiday and was ‘not returning to crisis work’.

Weeks and weeks of unanswered phone calls, text messages and emails followed before an official at the British High Commission in Islamabad, Pakistan, finally requested more information from campaigners working with Navid’s family on November 24.

A file on Navid’s case was sent to Islamabad on November 29 by a contractor working for the Foreign Office. 

It included a note that Navid needed urgent treatment ‘to prevent life-limiting disability and threat to life’.

Supporters of the family say there has been no concrete progress since then. MPs last night expressed concern at the Foreign Office’s handling of the case.

Navid’s desperate family pray that his condition will not worsen before experts at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London can operate. Pictured: Navid in hospital after the blast

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs committee, said: ‘The tragedy of the failure around the evacuation and the pain that has resulted for so many is even felt among the youngest.

‘This poor boy has done nothing but be loved by his parents who hoped for a better future. It’s a heartbreaking record of failure.’

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy said: ‘This appalling case underscores how badly the Government have handled the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

‘We can’t simply abandon children like this who are in dire need of our help. After months of delay, ministers need to get the resettlement scheme they promised up and running so we can get Navid and his family to safety.’ 

News of Navid’s plight comes after Foreign Office whistleblower Raphael Marshall released a damning 39-page dossier detailing the shambolic handling of the Afghanistan crisis.

He claims less than five per cent of those who applied to the ‘special cases’ team to help rescue Afghan soldiers, civil servants, and ‘extremely vulnerable individuals’ actually received assistance.

He said that on one afternoon during the evacuation, he was the only person processing ‘special case’ emails and that there were up to 5,000 unread messages at any given time containing desperate subject lines such as ‘please save my children’.

He attributed the bureaucratic blunders in part to a ‘work from home’ culture among civil servants who were ‘encouraged to leave’ after their designated eight hours in order to prioritise ‘work-life balance’.

The then foreign secretary Dominic Raab was also criticised for failing to cut short a holiday in Crete to deal with the crisis, while Sir Philip Barton, the £185,000-a-year head of the Diplomatic Service, was savaged by MPs last week when he admitted that he took his full two-week holiday, which ended 11 days after Kabul fell to the Taliban.

A Great Ormond Street Hospital spokesman said: ‘We were made aware of this little boy but have not received any recent medical information or an update on whether he is able to come to the UK. 

‘If he was able to and it was appropriate for him to come to GOSH for treatment then we would, of course, have a discussion about how to help him.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are urgently looking into this case and will be contacting the family. UK Government staff have worked tirelessly to evacuate over 3,000 individuals to leave Afghanistan. 

‘We continue to do all we can to secure safe passage to enable British nationals and eligible Afghans to leave the country.’

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