UAE: 13-year-old Filipina battles life-threatening disease, parents seek help amid mounting bills

Fatima's second foster parents are rallying for their daughter despite financial strain due to the absence of her residency visa, health insurance


Angel Tesorero

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Fatima Pancho Lobaton. Photos: Supplied
Fatima Pancho Lobaton. Photos: Supplied

Published: Mon 15 Apr 2024, 8:19 AM

Last updated: Tue 16 Apr 2024, 1:18 PM

A 13-year-old girl fighting a life-threatening disease is seeking help and prayers. The Filipina missed all the Eid festivities in UAE and was instead bedridden. She had seizures — her face puffed up, and widespread inflammation affected her tissues and organs. She has been intubated for days now and can barely speak or move the right side of her body.

But Fatima Pancho Lobaton is not giving up; she is showing resilience – a characteristic she has developed because of the challenges she faced at a young age.

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As Fatima lies in her hospital bed, her second foster parents are mounting a courageous battle against climbing medical bills. The couple faces a daunting financial strain due to the absence of health insurance and residency visa for Fatima.

Fatima fights for her life in the hospital:

Autoimmune disease

During this Ramadan, fate took a different turn for Fatima.

Muozzama said: "Fatima felt swelling in her eyes during the final days of Ramadan, and she always felt tired. She also started to have skin rashes and was always feverish. She also felt pain and swelling in her joints.

"We took care of her fever and made her rest. But on April 9, Fatima woke up with her entire face swollen. She called me crying, 'Mama, I can't move my hands and feet. The whole body is very itchy. She kept going to the toilet, but she could not pass urine.

"That's when we rushed her to the hospital in Ajman. Her vital signs were low, and her organs were failing. She was bedridden since the first day of Eid Al Fitr. She had fluid retention that made her entire face puffy, and there was also blood clotting in her brain that affected her speech," Mouzzama continued.

The doctors said Fatima has systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This autoimmune disease attacks her organs and tissues – compromising her entire body, including kidneys, lungs, brain, skin and blood vessels.

Mouzzama said doctors are giving Fatima proper medical care, and she was transferred to Al Tawam Hospital in Al Ain on Sunday.

'Please help and pray for Fatima'

Mouzzama said, "We are again seeking from Good Samaritans and kind-hearted individuals to help and pray for Fatima. Her condition is life-threatening, and bills are piling up. We have been transferred from two hospitals and left with huge bills.

"Fatima has no medical insurance because she still has no residency visa," she added while breaking into tears and indignation against Lobaton, who abandoned Fatima twice.

Mouzzama continued: "Fatima is a fighter and has big dreams. She would always tell us that one day, she would help build our dream house and that she would set up a charity organisation for abandoned children. But for now, she needs our help and prayers."

Abandoned as a child

Back in 2019, there was a call to look for her mother, who abandoned her when she was just two months old. At that time, she was already eight and wanted to go to school – to learn and make friends her age. But there was no record of her birth; she did not have a surname nor a, passport, residency visa, or Emirates ID. She could not even visit a hospital because there were no documents of her existence.

Fatima was initially taken care of by a Filipina and Pakistani couple. In 2018, when the couple had financial difficulties, she was handed over to friends living in Ajman in December of that year.

Fatima with foster mother Muozzama Batool
Fatima with foster mother Muozzama Batool

How Fatima was documented

Pakistani expat Syed Ali Moazzam and Filipina Muozzama Batool became the second informal foster parents. They worked out a plan to document Fatima and sought media support to bring out her situation and trace the mother.

They reached out to Ajman Police and the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai. They located the mother – whom they identified as Jessica Lobaton. The mother and daughter reunited in Karama, Dubai, in 2019, and Fatima finally got her passport in November 2020.

Lobaton disclosed that her daughter's given name at birth was Angel, but Fatima stuck as the name in the passport as it was the name given by the first foster parents and was derived from Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) daughter's name.

Fatima's passport
Fatima's passport

Muozzama told Khaleej Times they only met Lobaton for the first time in 2019. "She was already married with two grown-up daughters in the Philippines but had a Filipino boyfriend in Dubai. Fatima was the result of that relationship," shared Muozzama, adding: "The guy left Lobaton before the child was born – being the only breadwinner – she had a difficult time supporting Fatima and her and family back in the Philippines. She had no choice but to abandon the baby. After losing her job, she became an overstaying migrant.

"My husband helped Lobaton and sponsored her visa so she can, in turn, apply for Fatima's residency visa and make both their stay in the UAE legal.

"The application for Fatima's visa, however, did not happen. Lobaton ran away; we were left high and dry, and Fatima was abandoned again," continued Muozzama.

On Fatima's birthday in February, 2024
On Fatima's birthday in February, 2024

Devout Muslim

Fatima is also a devout Muslim. She started fasting during Ramadan when she was ten years old.

"Fatima is a very loving daughter. She used to wake me up with breakfast all ready," Muozzama said.

Despite what happened, Fatima did not harbour any ill feelings towards her own mother, noted Muozzama. "Life went on for her, and she was homeschooled. She honed her English communication skills by being a voracious reader and through YouTube. She continued her passion for arts and music.

Hear Fatima sing in the below video:


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