Report Helps Iraqi Mine Victims

Director of hospital offers treatment after being moved by story about amputee.

Report Helps Iraqi Mine Victims

Director of hospital offers treatment after being moved by story about amputee.

Friday, 27 November, 2009

A hospital in northern Iraq is pledging to treat four Basra landmine victims who were featured in an IWPR report in July.

The report, Basra Plagued by Mine Menace, featured victims from Shatt al-Arab, a rural village along the Iran-Iraq border in Basra province that is plagued by the deadly devices. IWPR reporters in Basra and Baghdad investigated and their story was published as an Iraqi Crisis Report in English, Arabic and Kurdish.

The story also ran in Metro, IWPR’s newspaper and radio programme in Iraq. It was picked up from Metro by Radio Nawa, a popular national news station and one of several Iraqi news organisations that reproduce IWPR’s stories.

The story featured several landmine victims, including Sadiya Khalaf Lafta, an amputee who said she has little chance to marry because she lost her leg 15 years ago.

Hawar Mustafa, the general director of Sulaimaniyah’s emergency hospital in northern Iraq, said he heard the report on Radio Nawa and was “deeply affected” by Lafta’s story.

The emergency hospital’s trauma unit provides victims of war with rehabilitation, plastic surgery and artificial limbs. Mustafa told Radio Nawa and an IWPR reporter that he was ready to aid victims after hearing the report.

"The hospital is prepared to treat the victims of the village featured in the report,” he said. “The first group should be the four victims mentioned in the story."

He indicated that he had not known about the landmine problem in Basra, and learned from the IWPR report that an estimated 400 of the 2,500 residents of Shatt al-Arab have been injured by landmines.

“If the same problem exists in another Iraqi city, we are ready to help,” Mustafa said.

Iraq is estimated to have 20 million landmines and 2.66 million cluster bombs spread out over more than 1,700 square kilometres. Only 20 sq km have been cleared by demining organisations since Iraq signed up to the United Nations’ Mine Ban Treaty in February 2008.

Several landmine experts in Basra also said they gleaned new information from IWPR’s report.

“The report contains a lot of information that sheds light on this problem, and it’s [written] in an excellent style that explains the problem,” said Ala Majid, director of Al-Rafidain Demining Organisation in Basra. “Although I am an expert on this subject, I liked it a lot."

Kamal Jacob, who manages the Centre for Artificial Limbs in Basra, said the report inspired his centre to look into providing home medical visits for victims or transporting them to the centre.

Jacob said the report “shed light on an important group of people: those who became handicapped because of mines, and who need better care”.

Although he is a specialist in the field, Jacob said he learned crucial information from the report such as statistics on the number of mines and victims in the area.

“This report was significant because it highlighted the human side of mine victims and their suffering in a touching and effective way,” he said. “This could make many humanitarian organisations provide support for these people."

Khajick Wartinal, an official in Basra’s environment department, said the report "left a big impression on me, even though as an environmental researcher I am intimately familiar with this subject ... The report has provided me with new information.”

He praised IWPR for providing “solid new information in a beautiful style”. Wartinal said the report was balanced and “highlighted an extremely important problem”.

He said the government does not do enough to help victims, saying it instead focuses on “unimportant issues”.

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