OF VICTIM ASSISTANCE
Emergency and Continuing Medical Care
Psychological and Social Support
Reintegration into Society
Survivors of mine accidents need different types of assistance to
heal physically and emotionally, to get artificial limbs and learn
how to use them, and to rejoin society and get trained for new jobs.
Unfortunately, these victims do not always have access to the help
they need, or are able to get quality care. Read more about the different
kinds of assistance that are necessary and the steps survivors, health
care workers, and mine action activists are taking to make the healing
EMERGENCY AND CONTINUING MEDICAL
victims sustain extremely serious and complicated injuries from
mine blasts. A mine explosion sends dirt, bacteria, clothing,
metal, and plastic fragments into the tissue and bone. The presence
of these foreign objects can cause severe secondary infections.
In addition, the force of an explosion can destroy blood vessels
in limbs not directly injured by the blast, resulting in amputations
above the actual wound.
victims require immediate first aid, medication, and blood transfusions,
and extended hospital stays, but few get this care. Unfortunately
the medical care in developing countries is often inadequate.
Even those victims that do reach their destination typically
do not receive proper medical care. At many health care facilities,
essential medical supplies such as antibiotics, blood reserves,
X-ray film, and anaesthesia are often lacking, and medical staffs
have not received adequate training.
An ethnic Albanian girl who lost both
legs in a landmine accident reads a letter from her brother
as she sits in a hospital in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.
A well-fitted prostheses is very important
for a survivor. The survivor also needs to be followed up regularly
with medical experts.
victims who have lost limbs in an accident, or had them amputated
require regular fittings for artificial limbs and physical therapy
to learn how to use them. And these artificial limbs
(or prostheses) need to be checked and “re-fitted”
frequently-- every six months for children and every three to
five years for adults. In addition, victims need physical therapy
to learn how to use their prostheses. The availability of these
services determines a mine victim’s ability to walk again,
work, and lead a relatively normal and productive life.
Unfortunately, rehabilitation centers
are scarce in developing countries. When these facilities
are available, they usually focus on providing prostheses, rather
than on the physical therapy needed to help victims adjust to
their new condition. Furthermore, most countries do not have
adequate supplies of prostheses, and those available are typically
given first to soldiers, then to civilians. Even if available,
many civilians who have to assume the costs of prostheses and
treatment cannot afford them.
like the International
Committee of the Red Cross and Handicap
International have sought to address this problem by initiating
programs in several countries to produce prostheses locally.
They work with simple and locally available materials, such
as leather and wood, even though these are not the most durable
prosthetic materials. They also employ local workers, especially
mine victims, who are retrained with the necessary skills. This
work gives survivors the opportunity to play an important and
productive role in their communities.
PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL SUPPORT
victims need to heal psychological as well as physical wounds,
and for many, this is not an easy task. Survivors are
often abandoned by family and friends who are either unable
or unwilling to provide them with the care and support required,
as it’s difficult to rehabilitate the injured body and
find a new place in society. As a result, mine victims often
turn to drugs or alcohol to ease their suffering.
victims need psychosocial treatment, and this counseling must
be adapted to their culture and beliefs. Effective counseling
programs can help mine survivors come to terms with their disabilities
and realize they are still valuable members of society. Such
awareness is an important step in a victim’s ability to
heal, learn to use his prosthesis, and begin a productive life
Psychological support probably is
the most important element in victim assistance. Each mine survivor
needs a constant professional assistance to treat his/her trauma
and psychological problems.
REINTEGRATION INTO SOCIETY
A 14-year-old ethnic Albanian girl
is wearing protheses on both legs and using hand crutches as
she greets children and adults outside her school. She lost
both legs in a landmine accident when her family returned to
Kosovo from a refugee camp in Albania.
survivors must adjust to an entirely new lifestyle after recovering
from their injuries. They must first learn how to use
their artificial limbs, if indeed they have been fortunate enough
to receive prostheses. As mine victims are often unable to return
to their previous occupations, they must also be trained in
new, basic skills to survive at work and in their communities.
Many survivors are trained in the production of prostheses and
as physical therapists for other mine victims.
the long run, the rights of mine victims must be specifically
protected. Many countries maintain the view that disabled
people are non-productive members of society with fewer rights
than others. Survivor assistance groups, such as Landmine Survivors
Network, encourage governments to enact national disability
legislation. Their dedication to this area has been instrumental
in changing attitudes and protecting the human rights of mine