Mali: I may have lost an arm, but at least I'm alive


"It was one morning in May 2014, the day fighting started again between the Malian army and armed groups," he explained. The people of Kidal had left their homes to stock up on supplies during a lull in the fighting. Al Hadder had joined them. "I'd gone back to my workshop, because if I didn't work I'd have no money to buy food.

Everyone was getting on with whatever they were doing when suddenly the shooting started again," he recalls. Al Hadder immediately decided to close up his workshop and head for the shelter of his house. He was just closing the door when he was hit by a stray bullet. "The bullet hit me in the right shoulder."

Some kind souls immediately took him to Kidal's health centre for first aid. Then he was transferred to Gao Regional Hospital, where the ICRC surgical team took over.

With his arm starting to develop gangrene, Al Hadder's life was in danger. The doctors had only one option. "All we could do was offer to amputate," explained Aly Ouattara, who runs the ICRC project at Gao Hospital. "After obtaining the agreement of the patient and his family, we amputated his right arm."

Today, Al Hadder is doing a lot better. He has left hospital and is undergoing out-patient treatment. "I'm not afraid any more. I know I'm going to recover," he told us. "I was well looked after and received great treatment, right from the moment I arrived at the hospital," he continues. "I'd like to thank the ICRC for saving my life. I may have lost an arm, but at least I'm alive. I remain optimistic, and I'm hoping to start doing some kind of work again soon."

Once Al Hadder's wound has healed, the ICRC will look at whether he can participate in its physical rehabilitation programme. Physiotherapy and an artificial limb would restore a certain degree of independence.

Gao Regional Hospital, which is one of the two largest medical facilities in the region, receives support from an ICRC medical team specialized in treating people with war-related injuries. The team consists of doctors, a surgeon, an anaesthetist, nurses, a midwife and a person to run the pharmacy that the ICRC has set up, and which the organization regularly re-stocks with medicines.