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Afghanistan: school offers hope to landmine victims

23-01-2006 Feature

A Scottish lecturer is the brains behind a project to build a Red Cross school specialising in fitting artificial limbs in Afghanistan, where many people have fallen victim to landmines.

   
  ©British Red Cross    
 
An estimated 100,000 people have fallen victim to landmines in Afghanistan 
       
  ©British Red Cross    
 
Children are particularly vulnerable to landmines 
       
  ©British Red Cross    
 
Participants in the training course 
      
  This article is published with the kind permission of the British Red Cross  

It is estimated there have been more than 100,000 landmine victims in Afghanistan over the last 25 years.

Mark Broomfield, from Edinburgh, has just returned from the Afghan capital Kabul where he trained 22 students in ortho-prosthetics, or artificial limb fitting.

A lecturer for 14 years at Strathclyde University, Mark was seconded from the British Red Cross to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in February 2004 to improve the standard of prosthetics work in conflict-torn Afghanistan.

 Landmines  

“There is a big demand for artificial limbs in Afghanistan, particularly legs, mainly as a result of landmines, gunshot wounds and car accidents,” he said. “You see a lot of people in the street with missing limbs or other injuries " .

" I saw a lot of women and children who were victims of landmines. Children often lost limbs just outside playing " .

" As an ICRC delegate we were given very strict security rules about where you could and couldn’t go. For example, you didn’t walk across fields and if you did you made sure to stick to a hard path. But with heavy rain, mines tend to move so what was once a safe area becomes a dangerous one,” he explained.

 Training  

The students Mark trained work for a range of non-governmental organisations in Afghanistan, mainly the ICRC. Mark intends to return to the country next month to run another training course and work on establishing a prosthetics school in Kabul.

“The present course is nine months long and is aimed at Afghan staff with at least six years experience,” he said. “The future plan is to have a three year course training people from scratch,” he said. 

Part of Mark’s remit was monthly visits to the American detention centre at Bagram air force base where he fitted prisoners with artificial limbs.

“Despite the great need for prosthetics, the level of education among Afghan prosthetists is quite low. I’d like to think we are beginning to make a difference,” he said.