UUP man leads appeal to fund cancer treatment in Moscow for Uzbek girl (5)
A local politician is behind a fundraising initiative to help a seriously ill five-year-old girl from Uzbekistan receive treatment for leukaemia in Russia.
Samira Sharipova was just four months old when she attended Rodney McCune's wedding to Firuza Karimova in the bride's native Uzbekistan in 2010.
However little Samira fell ill last year, prompting family and friends to raise £50,000 for her to go to Moscow, as there is no medical care available in her country.
But that money has now run out and Mr McCune said a further £25,000 is needed to save the child's life.
"Samira was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May 2014," he said. "She was our youngest wedding guest and I was devastated when I recently became aware of how ill she is.
"Uzbekistan is not the wealthiest country in the world, but Samira's family and friends managed to scrape together £50,000 to pay for the treatment in Moscow over the last 12 months.
"Now, though, they are struggling to raise more money and that's why I wanted to do something to help."
He added: "There is no National Health Service there. Samira and her mother are completely on their own."
Mr McCune (39), a barrister, married 33-year-old Firuza in Bukhara, which is also where Samira is from.
The couple, who met in London when Firuza was studying IT and Rodney was practising at the criminal bar, have one son, Charlie, who is three.
He added that Samira's mother Gulrukh Sarafona is one of his wife's close friends. "When you're the parent of a young child it obviously makes anything like this more personal," he said.
"Moscow is a five-hour flight from Uzbekistan and it makes it much harder being treated so far from home. But the good news is that doctors are fairly confident that when she finishes her treatment she'll make a full recovery."
Mr McCune, a former UUP candidate in South Belfast in the last Assembly election, said he was appealing to the kindness of Ulster people. "I know there are many worthy causes out there - in Northern Ireland and beyond," he said.
"But for me it's very sad to see any child's life reduced to a financial element, and that's why I wanted to see what we could do.
"This only comes down to money. She is already two-thirds of the way through her treatment. Not every child who's ill can be saved but, with financial support, Samira can be.
"That's what's so significant about it. It's simply down to paying for expensive treatment."
He added: My wife always says that people in Northern Ireland are very public spirited and charitable when it comes to fundraising and that's why I wanted to raise the profile of this."
You can help raise money via crowdfunding.justgiving.com/SaveSamira.