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Angola: Paula goes home to Malanje

02-03-2000 News Release 00/07

As the aircraft approached Malanje, east of Luanda, Paula exclaimed: "Malanje e bonito, Malanje e bonito!" . It's true: Malanje and its lush green surroundings are beautiful seen from the air. Paula was going home at last after spending three weeks in Huambo.

She was thinking, perhaps, of Christmas 1997, the day that changed her life. Paula, aged 15 at the time, had been to her sister's for Christmas dinner. On her return, she tripped over an electric cable in front of her parents'house. Normally no harm would have been done – but the cable was attached to a landmine. Paula lost her left leg.

At the end of 1998 Paula's family was forced by the war to leave home and seek refuge in Luanda, staying there until it was safe to go back early this year. Scarcely a week after the family had returned to Malanje, Paula was boarding an ICRC plane with 10 other residents of the town on her way to the ICRC's Bomba Alta physical rehabilitation centre in Huambo to be fitted with – and to get used to – a replacement for her artificial limb.

Today Paula is making plans for the future. She wants to study medicine so that she can help amputees who, like herself, will have to return to a rehabilitation centre about every two years for the rest of their lives.

The transfer of amputees from provinces with no limb-fitting facilities to ICRC centres, run in cooperation with the Angolan Ministry of Health, resumed last month after being interrupted by the new upsurge in fighting at the end of 1998. In 1999 the ICRC treated 1,547 patients in its three centres located in Luanda, Huambo et Kuito. Of these, 1,237 were victims of anti-personnel mines.