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Olympic torch sends message of hope to mine victims around the world

10-06-2004 News Release 04/41

Geneva (ICRC) – Courage and determination are the themes for the Cairo stage of the Olympic torch run on 11 June. An Afghan mine victim will be carrying the Olympic torch on its long journey to Athens. Najmuddin will be running on behalf of many thousands of mine victims in dozens of countries around the world who have overcome terrible injury to rebuild their lives.


    Najmuddin, director of the ICRC orthopaedic centre, Kabul©ICRC/ref. AF-E-00273/J. Barry 

Najmuddin is today the director of the limb-fitting and rehabilitation centre operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Kabul. He will be helped to prepare for the torch run by Shukrullah, a fellow mine victim and physiotherapist from Kabul. Both men have remarkable stories. In 1982 Najmuddin drove over an anti-tank mine. He was 18 years old. He managed to survive, but both his legs were amputated. The years that followed were very difficult but Najmuddin never gave up his struggle. In 1988 he was fitted with artificial legs at the ICRC centre in Kabul and his life began to change. He learned English, became a qualified physiotherapist, got married and now runs the centre, a facility that has developed greatly from the one he entered as a patient 16 years ago.

Shukrullah has a similar story. He lost a leg when he stepped on a mine in 1993. Again he was helped by the ICRC centre. Like Najmuddin, he learned English and trained as a physiotherapist. He too has married, and now has two children. He supports other members of his family, teaches peo ple to help mine victims and, like Najmuddin, is proud of the work he is doing.

Taking part in the torch run is a " relay for life " , a statement by two of the many thousands of mine victims around the world that life can go on and that courage can overcome adversity. It also focuses attention on the ICRC’s vitally important limb-fitting work in many mine-affected countries worldwide in the year that marks the 25th anniversary of the organization’s limb-fitting and rehabilitation unit. The number of patients treated by it each year has steadily grown, exceeding 30,000 worldwide in 2003.

The " Nairobi summit on a mine-free world " – the name given to the first review conference for the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines – will also take place in 2004. Government representatives and organizations engaged in mine action, including mine survivors, will discuss the progress made in the global effort to eradicate these devices and will work out an action plan for the coming years. The promised help in rebuilding the lives of mine victims will be one of the key points on the conference agenda. Rehabilitating thousands of mine victims depends on increased long-term commitment from governments to strengthening health care and ensuring that disabled people can participate fully in society.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Ian Piper, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 79 217 32 16  

 Jessica Barry, ICRC Kabul, tel. +93 70 28 27 19 or +93 70 27 64 65  

 Tamara Al Rifai, ICRC Cairo, tel. +2012 75 12 450