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Ugandan Landmine Survivor Helps Others Injured by the Weapons

In Zagreb, Croatia, the sixth meeting of states party to the international landmine treaty continues. The treaty was signed in 1997 to ban the use, acquisition, production, transfer and stockpiling of landmines.

While much progress has been made, each year it’s estimated between 15 and 20 thousand people are killed or maimed by landmines. One of the landmine survivors is Margaret Arach-Orech of Uganda, who lost a leg to a mine in 1998. She helps fellow survivors as part of the international campaign to ban landmines. From Zagreb, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the type of aid landmine survivors need.

She says, “They need emergency medical care and this medical care has to be continued, as you may be aware that most landmine survivors end up losing their limbs. Apart from the medical care and the surgery, they need much more. They need a lot of psycho-social support. They need more physical rehabilitation. And they also need to be able to support themselves and be independent ,so some form of socio-economic reintegration is needed. And also at the same time, we need laws and public policies put in place to ensure the rights of people with disabilities are respected,” she says.

She believes such support should be a lifetime commitment. “Just to give you an idea, I lost my leg in 1998 and this is now 2005 and I’m wearing my sixth limb. So, you can imagine what it would be for a child, a child or a boy of four years, or five, who lost his leg. He will need limb replacement almost every other year or every year until he gets to an adult stage. That is a total of about 25 limbs. And these are not easy to get. They are a bit costly. And sometimes we don’t even have the facilities.”

Ms. Arach-Orech was 42 years old when she lost her leg. She explains how it has affected her life. “I’m trying to look at it from the positive side. I would say it has made me much stronger, more committed to the issues of disability, and more careful with the choice of friends I have. Because the friends I had at that time all took off. And I didn’t want to focus on that negative side, but in a way it has made me a little wiser and stronger and more supportive toward disability.”

Ms. Arach-Orech was injured by a landmine in the northern Ugandan district of Kitgum. She says the mine had been planted by LRA rebels, who waited to rob the victims.