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Afghan mine victims face hard, but hopeful life
Fri Nov 27, 2009 7:44pm EST
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By Yara Bayoumy
KABUL (Reuters) - Moussa Khan had just been making his way back from a long day's work at a copper mine south of Kabul thinking about the son he lost a week earlier to a land mine blast. That day, Khan too stepped on a land mine.
Seven months later, Khan, his lined face wrinkled in concentration, still struggles to find his balance with a prosthetic limb in place of his right leg.
"When I heard the bang, I suddenly found myself flung nine meters away. May God punish them all," raved Khan, 50, his frail body clothed in blue grayish traditional Afghan long shirt and baggy trousers.
Who knows who planted the mine. In Afghanistan, with its three decades of conflict, it could have been the "Russians, the Communists, the Taliban," he said.
Last year alone, landmines caused 5,197 casualties worldwide, a third of them children, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).
Countries will gather in Cartagena, Colombia from November 29 to December 4 for a major review conference of the ten-year-old Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, which has been ratified by 156 states, according to the ICBL.
Large countries such as the United States, Russia, Pakistan and India have yet to sign up, but campaigners hope to persuade them.
Some 44 million stockpiled anti-personnel mines have been destroyed over the past decade by states under the treaty. But in Afghanistan, vast undetected areas remain covered in mines.
An orthopaedic center run by the International Committee for the Red Cross in Kabul registered 842 amputees in the first 10 months of 2009, three quarters of them victims of land mines.
"LIFE WILL NOT STOP"
The center provides prosthetic limbs and designs wheelchairs and crutches for disabled patients. Najmuddin Helal, head of the orthopaedic center and a mine victim himself, said more than 90 percent of the employees are disabled.
"We call it discrimination, but positive discrimination."
Amputee employees, having been through the trauma of an accident and learning to live with an artificial limb can better relate to patients affected by a similar experience, he said.
"To lose part of the body is not easy to accept. When they (patients) come here of course they are so disappointed and they are depressed," Helal said.
"In a way it helps them to see many other disabled here, who can get prostheses and can walk again. It's a hope for them, to help them psychologically. They see that with a disability, life will not stop." Continued...
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