Sudan: a step towards dignity
Darfur, an area of Sudan that has been affected by armed conflict since 2004, is almost as big as Spain. It has only one rehabilitation centre where people in need of a mobility device can get assistance. Hanin Dabbagh, ICRC's interpreter in Nyala, shared her impressions from a recent visit to the centre, which is supported by the ICRC.
Wazir, a small man in his forties, was sitting by himself in the corner, writing something. I could not resist going over to see what he was doing. Next to him was a shoe, in which he settled his small inkbottle. He was writing calligraphy on a wooden board that he held on his lap.
Wazir had suffered from leprosy for many years. The disease turned both his hands into stumps when he was a young man, but Wazir refused to give up calligraphy, his favourite hobby.
New leg safe from disease
His misfortune did not stop with the loss of his hands - Wazir had a car accident two years ago in which he lost his right leg. "It was very tough to lose the use of both my hands and then my leg as well," says Wazir. "But I'm happy that I am getting a new prosthetic leg that leprosy cannot affect!" – he adds, with a touch of irony.
Wazir came to the ICRC-supported orthopaedic centre in Nyala from Al Junaina (West Darfur). When I met him, he was waiting for a new prosthesis while undergoing rehabilitation therapy. Throughout his rehabilitation, the ICRC provided him with meals and a bed at the dormitory attached to the centre. Not having to worry about a place to sleep and how to get food made it easier for Wazir to apply to come to the centre.
All disabilities treated equally
The centre assists patients suffering from a disability in their legs or arms, regardless of whether the patient was born with a deficiency, lost a limb in an accident or was a victim of armed conflict. The ICRC also covers transportation for the patients from all over Darfur to and from the centre: women and children can be transported via an ICRC plane while male patients travel by land.
Wazir is one of approximately three hundred patients from all over Darfur who have been assisted by the ICRC-supported orthopaedic centre in Nyala since January 2010. Their life stories talk of great sadness, sacrifice and personal courage. Mohamad was born without legs. At the age of 23 he came to the centre, and soon afterwards walked using prostheses for the first time in his life. Rashida had a gun-shot wound which turned bad, so she had to have her leg amputated below the knee. She could walk on crutches, but crutches kept both her hands occupied and she could not carry her children in her arms. Since having her prostheses fitted, she no longer required crutches to walk and could finally carry her baby in her arms.
Scores walking without assistance – 'unforgettable!'
According to the World Health Organisation, there are close to 28,000 disabled persons throughout Darfur, 5,000 of whom in Nyala alone. The ICRC-supported centre is the only orthopaedic and prosthetic centre in the area. The staff working there are aware that they cannot take care of all those in need of an orthopaedic or prosthetic device and physical rehabilitation, but are very happy to see each and every person who leaves the centre walking without assistance.
"Seeing the light of hope in the eyes of a patient walking out is worth all the effort," says Imad Aldibee, an ICRC orthopaedic delegate in Nyala. "It is something difficult to explain, but indeed, unforgettable!"