Egypt is ready to provide medical treatment for the brother of a 13-year-old after the latter had travelled to Italy by boat to seek medical help for his sibling, Egypt’s envoy in Rome told Italian authorities.
According to an official statement by Egypt’s foreign ministry, ambassador to Rome Amr Helmy said that the embassy told Italian officials that Egypt’s health ministry was ready to treat the brother of Ahmed Youssef Marei, who suffers from thrombocytopenia, at the state’s expenses.
Marei took the medical records of his seven-year-old brother Ashraf to Italy last week aboard a migrant boat after paying smugglers in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.
Marei asked authorities upon arrival to provide him with a job so that he could pay for his brother's medical expenses, Italian media reported
Ambassador Helmy said an Egyptian official from the embassy arrived at a health care centre in Italy’s Florence to check on the elder Marei's mental and physical health.
The Egyptian ministry’s statement comes one day after it announced that the Marei family would be going to Florence for the treatment.
According to the ministry, the Italian embassy in Cairo had contacted the boy's family after a number of Italian businessmen and families offered to cover the expenses of his treatment.
The Italian officials said that the boy calls his parents daily, adding that they are ready for a constant exchange of information with the Egyptian embassy until the sick brother and his mother move to Italy if they accept the European country's offer.
The case, which has brought attention to Egypt’s troubled healthcare system, came to light last week after Italian media reported on the youngster's story, with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi saying a hospital in Florence was willing to treat young Marei free of charge.
Egyptian health minister Ahmed Emad urged the family to contact him personally to arrange for free-of-charge treatment in Egypt, while suggesting that the parents had not sought treatment at home before opting for Italy.
Although healthcare is guaranteed by law to all citizens in Egypt, the quality and availability of treatment is questionable, particularly in public hospitals.
Egypt allocated EGP 53.3 billion to healthcare spending in this fiscal year's budget, up from EGP 49.3 billion in the previous year, putting healthcare at 1.6 percent of GDP.