Niger: New limbs bring new life
Ahmed Boutali is a shopkeeper. In March 2010, he was in a car on a dusty road just outside Ingal, northern Niger, with five others. "Everything was normal. We're were chatting as usual," explained the 22-year-old. Suddenly, there was a bang. Then nothing. Their vehicle had hit an anti-tank mine.
"When I woke up I was in Arlit Hospital, with my arms and legs mangled," recalls Ahmed. He was evacuated to Algeria, where doctors had to amputate both legs and his left arm.
When he returned to his village, Ahmed had to learn how to live all over again. "With both my legs and one arm gone, I had to crawl everywhere. I couldn't do anything alone. I was completely dependent on others. It was humiliating and intolerable. Things went on like that for three years. Three years of suffering and shame," he explains, tears in his eyes.
Ahmed started to hope again in August 2013, when he first came into contact with Handicap International, and was then referred to the brand-new limb-fitting centre at Niamey Hospital, which the ICRC had renovated in 2012.
Two months after being admitted to the centre, he received two artificial legs and an artificial arm. Now, after several weeks of rehabilitation, he can walk without crutches.
Ahmed is a new man. "Look," he says, "I'm walking! I can go wherever I want, without help!"
Like Ahmed, over 30 patients from northern Niger who had lost limbs have regained their mobility since the reopening of the Niamey limb-fitting centre, the only one in the country that is currently operating.
As a result of a partnership between Niamey Hospital and the ICRC, the centre uses polypropylene to make its artificial limbs. "It's easier to fit limbs using polypropylene. Above all, it's easy to maintain. A cobbler or a welder can carry out routine maintenance. And if there are any major problems, patients can always come back to us," explains Lamine Oumarou Hassane, an orthotic/prosthetic technician, physiotherapist and technical manager of the centre.
For Ahmed, the centre has meant dignity and a new life.