Myanmar: Disabled athletes excel at SEA Games
The ICRC is involved in physical rehabilitation programmes in 27 countries, including Myanmar. Worldwide in 2012, the ICRC helped rehabilitate more than 15,000 victims of mines, other weapons and accidents by providing prostheses that restore amputees’ mobility, thereby giving them a second chance in life.
Aung Gyi competes in the F-43 discus final, winning the gold medal, at the 7th ASEAN Para Games in Nay Pyi Taw. © ICRC
Disabled people don’t take anything for granted. From the time they become disabled, almost everything in life becomes more difficult. Many things that able-bodied people take for granted, like being able to travel, drive a car, play games or go shopping, can be beyond the disabled – forever. Moreover it’s not just the physical difficulties – attitudinal and institutional barriers can also negatively affect the disabled. Hence, in addition to restoring mobility, a prosthesis can also help to restore a person’s self-esteem and dignity.
In Myanmar, the ICRC provides technical and financial support to three physical rehabilitation centres: two run by the Ministry of Health and one run by the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS). “The ICRC’s physical rehabilitation projects aim to help bring about the full integration and participation of people with disabilities into society, both during and after the period of assistance,” explained Leo Gasser, the ICRC’s ortho-prosthetic adviser in Myanmar.
At the recently concluded Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, staged in Myanmar, both able-bodied and disabled athletes from the South-East Asian region represented their countries in high-level competition. While it’s good to see world-class able-bodied athletes excel at their sport, it can be inspirational to watch young, disabled people overcome their disability by competing in the paralympic version of the competition.
Ten athletes, users of MRCS centre prostheses, were given the opportunity to use a high-technology commercial prosthesis for the games. In all, seven gold, three silver and six bronze medals were won by eight of the ten competitors, using both MRCS/ICRC-supplied prostheses, as well as commercial models.
The MRCS and the ICRC were introduced to the commercial supplier at the Orthopaedic World Congress in India in 2013. Together, the two humanitarian organizations promoted collaboration between the Paralympic Sports Federation and the commercial supplier at the SEA Games.
“Individually our organizations would not have been able to achieve this outcome for the athletes, but by working together, the MRCS, Paralympic Sports Federation, the commercial supplier and the ICRC gave the athletes a chance to show their considerable potential – which they did with flying colours,” concluded Didier Reck, the ICRC’s physical rehabilitation programme manager in Myanmar.
Ten athletes whose prostheses were fitted at the Hpa-an Orthopedics Rehabilitation Center, together with representatives of the Ossur company and the communication team of the ICRC and MRCS, pose for a group photo on the last day of the 7th ASEAN Para Games held in Myanmar from 14-20 January 2014. © ICRC