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Angola: new hope for war amputees

26-07-1995 News Release 30

The guns have fallen silent in Angola since the peace process began in November last year. Peace has also brought fresh hope to the most hapless victims of the Angolan conflict: amputees. With the gradual reopening of the main communication routes people can now travel about again. This means that the many civilians injured by anti-personnel mines and abandoned to their fate while the conflict was still raging can at long last make their way to one of the country's rehabilitation centres for amputees.

" The number of amputees needing artificial limbs is estimated at more than 20,000 " , said Theo Verhoeff, the ICRC's orthopaedic specialist on the spot. " When you walk through the streets, you constantly come across disabled people who have no prostheses. In Angola, orthopaedic technicians have a huge task before them - as do the mine-clearing teams. " According to United Nations estimates, there are between 9 and 15 million unexploded mines scattered all over the country.

The ICRC suspended its artificial limb projects in 1993, after the ransacking and destruction of its workshops in Huambo and Kuito. Activities have resumed this month with the opening of a centre for the production of orthopaedic components in the capital, Luanda. The centre, set up in cooperation with the Angolan Ministry of Health and the Swedish Red Cross, will supply components for all the country's orthopaedic facilities. Reconstruction work is currently being done on the ICRC's workshops in Huambo and Kuito, which will be operational by next October. Between 1979 and 1993, the ICRC's orthopaedic facilities in Angola manufactured a total of 12,500 artificial limbs.