Friday, 7 October 2011

Veterans International Cambodia

Land Mines: The Ongoing Impact on Cambodian People

Land mines were laid in Cambodia from the mid 1980's to mid 1990's by the Vietnamese forces and subsequently the Cambodian Government. Today Cambodia has one of the worlds worst land mine problems and the highest amputees per capita of any country. Over 25,000 Cambodians have lost their limbs due to land mines. (source : Lonely Planet Cambodia, 2010)

We met with Dr Joyner, Plastic Surgeon and headed off with a driver to the Veterans International Cambodia. We went to the rehabilitation department where we were greeted by a physiotherapist and staff. We went into a large room which was filled with parents and children. Many of the children had cerebral palsy and were being given physiotherapy. Some children had limbs missing as a result of coming into contact with a land mine or experiencing a traumatic accident. Several children were born with club feet and were being fitted with special shoes and splints. Many of these children experienced small pressure ulcers and were treated with betadine and gauze mainly because that was all that was available to treat them.

Cathy and Mary with the physiotherapist at Veterans International Cambodia

The physiotherapist took us to see the area where the prosthetic limbs were made. Cambodian people who were skilled in the trade of making the prosthetic limbs worked diligently on forming artificial legs , feet, arms and hands. They crafted rubber into hands and made every effort to make the limb as real looking as as possible. They were focused and hard working. We met with several more patients- one woman who was learning to walk on her artificial leg, and a child that was being fitted for leg splints due to a deformity. Despite their hardships, they all had a big smile for us.

We also saw the area where wheel chairs are made for people in need. While there were many wheelchairs that looked quite decrepid but new wheelchairs  were being newly crafted. There were paintings on the wall that depicted people without limbs walking with a crutch - or wheeling in a wheel chair- but they were depicting getting on with life.  What stuck us is that the Cambodian people were making their own prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs. They were not being imported.

When we walked back to the main entrance we saw posters demonstrating what different kinds of land mines left from the war (Khmer Rouge) looked like. As we left the building we saw a large metal statue of bugs bunny- only there was a twist. Bugs had a prosthetic leg and was holding a land mine. This statue was built by the company who made the machines to detect land mines in a effort to educate children not to touch them if found.

The impact of land mines was very apparent. It was haunting. 

Bugs Bunny with a prosthetic leg and holding a land mine

1 comment:

  1. Wow Ladies, this experience will truly change the way you think and look at life. Where do they people who make the wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs get their supplies and materials from? Keep up the good work. You are going to make a positive impact on the lives you touch.