Two 13-year-old boys who lost limbs after stepping on mines in El Salvador arrived at Arlington Hospital yesterday for treatment.
Jose Maria Garcia Majano and Jaime Balmore Hernandez Aguiluz, both from small villages in eastern El Salvador, are scheduled for surgery Tuesday then will be transferred to Fairfax Hospital, where they are to receive artificial limbs and rehabilitative therapy.
The boys, who arrived at National Airport Thursday night, are expected to remain in the United States about a month, hospital officials said.
Majano, wearing a baseball cap, and holding a bag of cookies and a T-shirt he received on his arrival, smiled nervously yesterday as he was introduced to Sally Parris, one of the nurses who will care for him at Arlington Hospital.
"You'll have to teach me some Spanish," Parris told the boy through an interpreter. Majano, who lost his left hand and sustained abdominal injuries after stepping on a mine in a field earlier this year, nodded. Aguiluz lost his right leg when he stepped on a mine two years ago while waiting for a bus.
Both youths seemed overwhelmed by the attention from officials and reporters at their airport welcoming.
The boys were accompanied by family members and Inez Duarte, wife of Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte. Ernesto Rivas-Gallont, El Salvador's ambassador to the United States, and Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) greeted the boys at the airport.
"We have so many children with the same problems," said Inez Duarte. "They are suffering so much."
Wolf said he decided to get involved after visiting El Salvador this year and seeing several children who had been injured by mines.
In the past year or two, the use of mines in El Salvador's civil war has increased. The United States has supplied mines to the Duarte government's troops, while the leftist guerrillas make their own, according to a report by the human rights group Americas Watch. That group and others have criticized the use of the mines and their indiscriminate use, which can injure civilians.
Project Hope, which has brought about 20 children to the United States for treatment of injuries sustained in an earthquake in El Salvador about a year ago, is working with Wolf on the project; several airlines, hospitals and physicians have agreed to donate services.
According to James Callahan of the State Department about a third of hundreds of Salvadorans injured by mines are children.