This is the story of Nazifa Noor Ahmad, an Afghan woman who arrived in Italy as a child in 2008 to be treated for a severe form of Hodgkin lymphoma. The young woman died at age 20 on Wednesday (June 15), only a few days after a lung transplant she had undergone.
In 2018, for her work as a Red Cross volunteer, Nazifa Noor Ahmad received an 'Alfiere della Republica' award from Italian President Sergio Mattarella. The Alfiere della Republica is an annual award to specifically honor young minors for their exemplary behavior in civil society in Italy.
Nazifa Noor Ahmad had arrived in Italy from Afghanistan in 2008 at age six. She was brought to Bagnacavallo, near Ravenna in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, after joint efforts from the Italian military contingent deployed to the Afghan city of Herat and the civil protection of Italy's Lower Romagna region. At that time, the civil protection department was headed by Roberto Faccani, who had welcomed Nazifa Noor Ahmad into his family to offer her the possibility to be treated for a severe form of Hodgkin lymphoma.
She died on Wednesday (June 15) at age 20 -- local media reported -- only a few days after a lung transplant she had undergone in Padua.
Passion for volunteering despite disease
Over the years, the young woman had to undergo complicated treatment due to her health conditions and was hospitalized several times in the paediatric section of the Sant'Orsola hospital in Bologna.
She was recently hospitalized in Padua for surgery on her lungs, after the cyclical treatment she had been forced to undergo.
Nazifa, who was to have taken her postponed high school leaving exam in September, was accompanied by her mother and one of her adoptive sisters as well as her adoptive father Faccani.
It was from Faccani who she got her passion for volunteering. She had worked as a volunteer in both the Red Cross and as an interpreter at migrant reception centers.
Her efforts earned her the honor of being named an Alfiere della Republica.
'Short life of immense worth'
"This is a very difficult moment and those of us who are part of her family struggle to speak and express what we are feeling about this serious loss," said Faccani to the local paper Il Resto del Carlino in Ravenna.
"Nazifa had been with us for 14 years and I and my family had accompanied her the entire way, both as concerns the treatment of her disease as well as her integration into social life. She felt entirely Italian, 'Romagnola' and 'Bagnacavallese".
"At age seven she learned our language in only four months. She was close to everyone and loved by everyone. Her friends and classmates still cannot believe that this has happened and in recent months they always stood by her side and supported her. She gave the best of herself to the community and she will remain in the memory of many people."
On hearing of the death of the Afghan woman, the head of the Italian branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Francesco Rocca, said that: "There are no adequate words for the death of our Nazifa," he told Il Resto del Carlino, "every comment seems superfluous. But this is not the case, since her short life was of immense worth. It was a vehicle of hope and the desire to devote oneself to others to give back what one has received."