Iraqi Child Set On Fire Brought To America For Treatment

SHERMAN OAKS - A 6-year-old Iraqi boy who made international headlines when he was doused in gasoline and set on fire by masked insurgents outside his Baghdad home has arrived in Los Angeles to begin months of treatment at the Grossman Burn Center.

Youssif, whose last name was not released for security reasons, was playing outside his home on Jan. 15 when he was attacked by masked men, according to published reports. He was left with his face disfigured and his hands deeply scarred. He was 5 at the time.

The story of the brutal attack garnered worldwide attention last month after Youssif's desperate father, who couldn't find anyone to treat his son, approached a television crew from CNN and reportedly said: "Look at what these monsters did to my boy."

Viewers who saw the news report contacted the Sherman Oaks-based Children's Burn Foundation. The foundation, which provides support for burn victims here and abroad, secured visas for the family, covered the transportation to the United States and will pay for all medical costs.

"I have never known a situation like this in which the burn was caused due to such incredible violence," said Barbara Friedman, the foundation's executive director, adding that 12,000 people contacted the foundation after hearing Youssif's story.
The boy and his parents arrived Tuesday morning. He was examined Wednesday by Dr. Peter Grossman, co-medical director of the burn center.

Grossman said Youssif was quiet and tentative when they met.

Treatment will include the removal of thickened scar tissue around Youssif's nose, as well as gradually stretching the existing skin on the boy's face.

"It's a pretty tragic situation," Grossman said. "It shows the worst in human beings, to torture a child in this way, and yet what we've seen is the best in humanity of all who wanted to help."

Friedman said the family is in disbelief with all the attention.

"When they got off the plane, they were so gracious," she said. "As we were driving away from the airport, his mother said, `It's so quiet here. There are no bombs."'

Last year, the foundation provided support for more than 475 children and families. More than 70 percent of the children who receive help have been burned by coffee, boiling water, soup and other scalding liquids, Friedman said.

"If there is any good that can come of this tragedy, it's that Youssif's story will inspire people to learn more about the needs of severely burned children and offer their support to Youssif and other children like him," she said.