Prosthetics clinic rebuilding shattered lives of Mosul survivors

Prosthetics clinic rebuilding shattered lives of Mosul survivors
By Monica Pinna
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Italian NGO offers hope to thousands who lost limbs in conflict


Over 20 years more than 5,000 people have received prosthetic limbs at the Emergency rehabilitation centre of Sulaymaniyah. In 1998 the Italian NGO opened the facility in Iraqi Kurdistan, next to the border with Iran, a heavily mined area - the legacy of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and Gulf War of 1991. Today patients arrive from all over Iraq, Iran and Syria. More and more are coming from Mosul.

"The most common cases are below-knee amputees," says Mustafa Hawar, Emergency's Iraq Programme Coordinator. "We have few of them with upper-limbs amputations and very few of them are hand-cut (amputees). Major injuries are [caused by] mines and explosions".

Just a few months after the end of the conflict in Mosul, there were over 4,800 amputees on the waiting list to receive prosthetic limbs. Nearly 200 have been treated so far. Nevertheless, it's estimated that there are at least 1,000 unregistered cases.

Patients get their self-sufficiency back, but not necessarily their livelihood. That's why the centre organizes two sessions of vocational training per year. Ahmed Karim Mahamood has just finished his carpentry course and now has hope of earning a living: "I lost my leg to a mine and I came here to learn a new job in order to keep my family," he tells Aid Zone. Among the trades are ex-patients are trained in are carpentry, PVC and leather work and tailoring.

Groups of 15 are trained for five months and then given financial aid to start their business. More than 360 workshops have been opened so far. Gulastan Nazim Ahmed dreams of opening hers: "I was fours years old when I lost my leg. I was in the car and there was a car-bomb. My dream was to be a tailor," she says.

In Iraqi Kurdistan alone over the past 25 years, there have been some 14,000 landmine incidents, resulting in at least 6,000 casualties. A region hit by decades of war may take an equally long time to recover.

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