Afghanistan - ICRC Orthopaedic Programme - January 2002
18-04-2002 Operational Update
Currently, the ICRC operates six Orthopaedic Centres throughout the country providing orthopaedic assistance for victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance.
Since 1988, the ICRC Orthopaedic Programme has been a major component of ICRC activities in Afghanistan, reflecting the lasting consequences of the conflicts for the past two decades. Currently, the ICRC operates six Orthopaedic Centres throughout the country (Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Jalalabad, Gulbahar and Faizabad) providing orthopaedic assistance for victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs). The services available at the Orthopaedic Centres include:
- production and repairs of prostheses and orthoses
- production and repairs of rehabilitative aids (wheelchairs, crutches, walking frames)
- fitting of prostheses and orthoses
- physical rehabilitation
- training for local staff working for the Orthopaedic Centres
Until 1995 the ICRC's services were only defined to mine/UXO victims. They were then extended to patients suffering disabilities caused by poliomyelitis, spinal injuries, cerebral palsy, congenital and acquired deformities. This is due to the huge needs and the almost complete absence of assistance for those particular disabled populations in Afghanistan. So far, over 47,000 patients were assisted by the ICRC.
Social Reintegration of the Disabled
As a part of its efforts to reintegrate the disabled patients into society, the ICRC Orthopaedic Centre in Kabul has been providing its patients with various form of assistance including micro credit, primary education, vocational training and job-referral service.
The ICRC has a micro credit service which enables the patients to start up a small business such as tailoring and repairing of shoes, watches and bicycles. During the year 2001, 304 patients benefitted from loans, and 1,452 in total since 1999.
The ICRC provides vocational training for the patients aged 17-30 in tailoring, repairing and others. At present, 57 patients are admitted to one of training courses.
The ICRC supports the young patients to continue their studies either at school or at home. During the year 2001, tuition, stationary and transportation are provided, benefitting 493 disabled children. Of total, 45 received lessons at home.
The ICRC, through its orthopaedic centre, registers those patients who are able and motivated to work. Since 1996, 345 patients were helped to find a job at the ICRC and NGOs.
Home Care for Spinal Cord Injured (Paraplegics)
In response to the special needs of the spinal cord injured who are often better taken care by their families than in institutions, the ICRC visit over 275 patients at home in Kabul. Visits are made by a team of 3 persons supervised by an expatriate physiotherapist, closely involving the family members of the patients in the daily care, hence, allowing the patients to lead a life as normal as possible within their families and communities. Medical treatment, psycho-social support and rehabilitation advice are provided during these visits. Over 2,500 visits were made during 2001. The patients are also assisted with food rations provided every 3 months. Some patients receive small loans to set up a business such as tailoring and food vending for their self-sufficiency.
The Employment Policy of the ICRC Orthopaedic Centres
One of the unique contributions of the ICRC Orthopaedic Centres in Afghanistan is its employment policy which provides economic security for the disabled population. Since 1995, the ICRC Orthopaedic Centres only employs disabled personnel, both men and women, who otherwise do not have means to support their families. They are employed, according to their qualification and physical capacity, as cleaner, welder, tailor, teacher, as well as nurse, physiotherapist and medical doctor. Training is provided by the ICRC as and where required.
The workers employed in the field of physiotherapeutic professions have proved to be far better in understanding physical and psychological needs of patients, enabling an increased quality of service. Moreover, the presence of those disabled workers at the Orthopaedic Centres has been making a positive effect on the morale of those who undergo the long process of rehabilitation.
In August 2001, a total of 22 staff members including 3 females were employed at the newly-opened Orthopaedic Centre in Faizabad. They are all former patients who received assistance at the other ICRC Orthopaedic Centres.
ICRC Orthopaedic Activities