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Viewers write in to help Iraq's 'miracle baby'

By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 10:05 AM EDT, Fri March 22, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Childspring International has set up a special account for Noor
  • As an infant, she was brought to America for life-saving surgery
  • The family is struggling to take care of a disabled child in war-torn Baghdad
  • Some readers said America has a responsibility to Noor and her family

(CNN) -- CNN's story about Noor al-Zahra Haider touched readers and viewers, many of whom wrote to say they felt some responsibility for the Iraqi girl whose life was saved by Americans at the height of the Iraq War.

Others simply wanted to know how they could help.

Childspring International, the Atlanta-based Christian charity that sponsored her stay in the United States in 2006, said it was setting up a special Baby Noor Fund so it could channel donations specifically to Noor's family. Noor was born with a severe form of spina bifida.

Alison Fussell, the executive director of Childspring, said Thursday the charity set up the fund after being contacted by people who saw the CNN story. She said she was not yet sure exactly how the donations would be used and that the charity was still determining what the right action would be.

She said it would look into possibly linking Noor's family with specialists in Baghdad or shipping medical supplies to them.

"We are keeping a separate account for her," Fussell said. "I do know that we will do the right thing. I am 100% sure of that."

Anyone who wants to donate should include the words "Baby Noor Fund" in the box that reads "Who should we notify of this gift" on Childspring's Donate Now page.

One CNN reader with spina bifida wished the Iraqi girl well.

"As someone born with a mild case of spina bifida, I've faced certain physical challenges throughout my life -- I'm 49 -- but nothing like this young Iraqi girl," wrote Paul Keyes. "May God grant her continued life, improving health and a happy heart."

Another reader, John Last, wrote: "We humans possess the power to turn our world into garden or wasteland. Tools are right here. ... So she was given hope by noble soldiers who still believe that they are warriors and not mercenaries. (The) journalist that was trying to make the difference instead of chasing some celebrity. Doctors, members of (a) charity group and host families who showed this child the best we humans can offer -- compassion. And then she was forgotten, received the worst we humans can offer -- indifference."

Noor, now 7, was discovered by U.S. soldiers when she was 3 months old during a routine raid of her house just before Christmas 2005. Noor's grandmother told the soldiers that Iraqi doctors could do nothing for Noor, who was born with vertebrae that did not form completely around her spinal cord. She was certain to die.

The soldiers sent her to the United States, where doctors performed life-saving surgery. After six months, she was returned to her home in the town of Abu Ghraib.

Another reader, Linda Shinn, thought Noor should not have been sent back to Iraq.

"When her family asked for help, they probably thought that more could be done for her in America than was possible, and they somehow imagined that she would be returned to them in good health," Shinn said.

"If it was just that she lacked the use of her legs, it wouldn't be so bad, but when it involves her bowels and bladder as well, that is just beyond what any poor family could possibly handle. If she were in the U.S. and possibly in a home for disabled persons, she might have more quality of life, and her family (would) have the huge burden of her care removed from them, and she might have actual nurses who would care for her."

Noor's family paid a price for the association with Americans. They were threatened and forced to restart life in a new neighborhood.

CNN caught up with them a few weeks ago in Baghdad and published Noor's story on Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War. It evoked all sorts of emotions and comments about the war itself and what America's role ought to be in that part of the world.

Noor's family is struggling to make sure the little girl gets the proper care she needs for her complex medical issues. Noor has a shunt in her brain to relieve pressure from fluid buildup, and she often experiences urinary tract infections that could possibly lead to renal failure.

She also has no feeling in her pelvis and her legs, and she cannot walk.

Some of Noor's family members wondered whether America had forgotten them. A question that naturally arose from the story was whether America owed anything to Noor.

Readers felt both ways. Many agreed that Americans ought to help.

"The article speaks to the idea that many people are happy to help for a time, but it's easy to forget once the headlines go away," said Sharon Braddock.

"The follow-up years later presents the question of whether people who step up to assist have a duty to follow through and, if so, for how long? If we start to help, how far should we go? Is it the right thing to separate the child from her family? These are all serious questions with no right or wrong answer, but we should each consider them carefully. Whatever our answer is, it tells us something about ourselves and the world in which we live," she said.

But others, like alexDW said this: "Right now she is just a Third World girl with a bladder problem, no different from millions of others. Now the help should be directed to the people who need it most now, and I am sorry to tell you, that is probably not her."

Braddock acknowledged that Noor's case was a tough one. Braddock likes happy endings; she wants everyone to be in a safe place and lead a life of quality. She knows that's easy to say but in this case, difficult to accomplish.

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