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Cambodia: mine warfare: the victims take courageous action

08-06-1995 News Release 23

The terrible injuries inflicted by the explosion of a landmine are only part of the ordeal mine victims have to endure. Life afterwards is at least as difficult, for they often feel useless and unwanted, a burden on society. So when a British NGO, the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), decided to employ twenty amputees as mine-clearance personnel in Cambodia, there was no shortage of volunteers. But one problem had to be solved: such personnel cannot wear traditional artificial limbs as the metal components (bolts, screws...) would interfere with the metal detectors used.

In support of MAG's innovative project, the ICRC's limb-fitting workshop in Battambang set out to design and manufacture completely metal-free prostheses made entirely of polypropylene. Following successful tests, the 20 volunteers, included in a larger group of able-bodied mine-clearance personnel, gave a public demonstration of their skills. A military observer present found it difficult to spot the amputees in the group, as their new prostheses enabled them to move almost completely normally.

Aware of the importance for amputees to become self-reliant and find a new purpose in life, the ICRC hopes that the programme for mine-clearance by specially trained amputees will be extended throughout Cambodia and even further afield. The ICRC delegation in Cambodia is ready to share its technological experience with everyone interested in combating the scourge of mines.