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Pakistan: a new leg brings new life for Manshad

12-12-2011 Feature

Manshad Ahmed was 25 years old when a mighty earthquake shook his native village of Ghanchattar in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Recovering from surgery, he was shocked to find that his leg had been amputated below the knee. The earthquake shattered not only his bones, but also the dreams of a young man. Manshad talked to the ICRC about his experience of coping with psychological and physical trauma and overcoming economic difficulties.

"You cannot possibly imagine how it feels when you can't walk anymore. I thought I was the most useless person on earth. Instead of supporting my old parents, I became a burden to them," says Manshad, sitting on a stool inside his grocer's shop.

"I remember that day very well. I left home early in the morning to get some milk for my parents. Suddenly everything started shaking terribly. I didn't understand what was going on until I saw bricks falling from a wall. Then a big beam fell on my leg. I could hear the sound of my bones breaking. The pain was nothing compared to what I felt when I was told they'd amputated my leg. I didn’t want to be a coward, but I couldn't stop crying for weeks."

Fighting back the tears, Manshad continues: "I'd started my first job just a few days before. My elder brother had promised that I would build my own house and get married. The dreams of a modest but happy life were all shattered. People around me had also suffered a lot. Houses were destroyed, relatives dead, but I kept thinking about my own tragedy. As the months went by, I started to hate my bed, my crutches, myself."

The road to recovery

As we talk, Manshad’s hand moves back and forth over his artificial leg. Customers come and go, and we have to interrupt our conversation every now and then. He stands up to weigh some peas for a customer, and then continues with his story.

“Let me tell you, you cannot imagine how it feels when you can stand again, even with an artificial leg. When I stood up for the first time, after an ICRC doctor had fitted me with a prosthesis, my legs were constantly shaking. I felt like a kid, I wanted to run, run really fast and show everybody that I was no longer dependent. They spent a week training me to use my new limb to walk and climb. Then I wanted to come back to my village as soon as possible. I wanted people to see me walking again, I was independent!"

The ICRC opened a physical rehabilitation centre in Muzaffarabad, with the support of the Ministry of Health, in 2007. The centre provides artificial limbs (prostheses), supportive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, orthoses and physiotherapy services to people with physical disabilities, all free of charge. Registered patients also receive follow-up care and have their artificial limbs replaced on a regular basis.

“Two years later, the artificial leg had to be replaced. During my one-week stay at the physical rehabilitation centre, I heard about an opportunity to open my own business with the support of the ICRC. After discussion with my brother and friends, I decided to open this grocer's shop. My application was approved after an assessment. I went on a five-day business management course, and then the ICRC bought the things I needed for my shop. After I started my business, ICRC staff visited me every two months to provide more advice.”

Manshad’s shop brings in a small but regular income, which allows him to take care of his family and to plan for the future.

"I am married and have two daughters. We live in our own house and I am taking good care of my parents. That’s all I ever wanted, all I ever dreamt of."

 

Muzaffarabad Physical Rehabilitation Centre (MPRC)

  • Between July and September 2011, the ICRC provided 125 prosthetic and orthotic devices to 109 patients and registered 134 new patients.
  • The centre has helped almost 4,000 disabled people since it opened in July 2007.
  • Since 2008, MPRC patients can also apply for a grant to start or expand a business of their choice, with ICRC support and follow-up. Between July and September 2011, the ICRC helped 50 disabled people to start small businesses, bringing the total number of supported projects to 732. Most of the beneficiaries have chosen to open grocer's or greengrocer's shops, or to go into advanced tailoring, candle-making or livestock breeding.

Photos

Ghanchattar, Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Manshad Ahmed does something he had thought belonged to his past – walking. 

Ghanchattar, Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Manshad Ahmed does something he had thought belonged to his past – walking.
© ICRC

Ghanchattar, Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Manshad Ahmed serves a customer in the shop he started with ICRC support. 

Ghanchattar, Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Manshad Ahmed serves a customer in the shop he started with ICRC support.
© ICRC