IRAQ: A Country with More Than 10 Million Landmines
According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, Iraq is one of the most contaminated countries in the world when it comes to landmines and military debris. In the mid nineties, the border between Iran and Iraq, populated by Iraqi Kurds, was strewn with more 10 million mines, some of which were manufactured in Italy.
Demining efforts have slowed over the last few years and at the current rate, Iraq will only be free from landmines in 300 years’ time. Over the last 25 years, there have been approximately 14,000 landmine incidents, with 6,000 casualties, in Iraqi Kurdistan alone. Refugees and internally displaced people are most at risk. Frequently, people are forced to escape from their homes and look for shelter in refugee camps, whilst overcoming areas scattered with landmines in the process.
To offer assistance to landmine victims, we opened the Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration Centre in Sulaymaniyah in 1998. Since then, the Centre has constructed more than 9,000 prostheses and carried out more than 50,000 physiotherapy treatments.
Welcome to the Entrance
Welcome to the Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration Centre in Sulaymaniyah, dedicated to Teresa Sarti Strada, the first President of EMERGENCY. The Centre was opened on 18 February 1998 and specialises in physiotherapy, the production of prosthesis for disabled patients, and the vocational training of outpatients to support their social reintegration.
The Centre’s Garden
Here you can see a panorama of the main entrance of the Centre: following the main corridor you will find yourself in a peaceful inner garden. The garden is an essential part of our hospitals, it is a peaceful gathering place for our patients and their families during their stay. Because we know how important family support is for our patients during traumatic times, we offer accommodation and free meals for families that accompany patients throughout their recovery.
The Art of Manufacturing Prostheses
Considering the number of patients that we treat and the cost of prostheses on the market, purchasing them would be an impossible cost to cover. In order to overcome this obstacle, the prostheses that we use are built by our staff at the Centre. In the photos above, you can see the various models and different types of prostheses we use – all designed and built at the Centre.
The first step in the process of creating a prosthesis is lifecasting a mould from plaster. From the plaster, we create a model that can be modified and adapted to the solid part added at the end of the process.
The process of modelling prostheses
In the video, staff at the Centre explain the second stage – the manufacturing of the soft foam coating that covers the internal part of the prosthesis. The coating is fundamental to balance pressure and prevent discomfort, pain and lesions.
As much as it is important that the inside of the prosthesis is soft, it is equally necessary to ensure the rigidity and resistance of the prosthesis. This is made possible with the use of a very thin and resistant plastic. In order to model the plastic, it must be softened by heating the material in an oven.
Shadman, Orthopaedic Specialist in the Laboratory
Shadman, the Centre’s orthopaedic specialist, repairs a prosthetic leg to be used by Mustan, a young girl. In the laboratory, you can see the equipment and the various plastic and metal components used to secure the prosthesis.
Vocational training: Returning Dignity to Victims
The objective of our social reintegration program is to give dignity back to our patients and help them overcome the barriers created by their disability, thus providing them with an opportunity to support themselves and their families. We are proud to say that more than half of the team at our Centre for Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration in Sulaymaniyah is made up of outpatients or people with disabilities.
Faris, the manager of the Centre, talks about the importance of vocational training in the context of the program.
Agreement with the Rehabilitation Centre in Mosul
Once we ended our involvement at the EMERGENCY Surgical Centre in Erbil, we began to collaborate with the Rehabilitation Centre in Mosul. During the conflict, the factory that produced prostheses in the city was hit, seriously compromising production. The patients were transferred to our Centre of Rehabilitation in Sulaymaniyah, where they receive prostheses and a complete rehabilitation course.
Just a few months after the end of the conflict, the number of people who need a prosthesis is shocking: there are over 4,800 amputees on the waiting list. And the number could be even higher – it is estimated that there are at least one thousand unregistered cases.
People still need treatment, medical assistance, prostheses, and to heal the indelible wounds and scars that war leaves on its victims. We will be there for as long as we are needed.