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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 17:21 GMT
'Jaipur foot' for Afghan amputees
Afghan amputees
Thousands have lost limbs during 20 years of war
By Ian McWilliam in Kabul

Thousands of Afghans have lost one or both legs to the landmines that litter the country after more than two decades of war.

An Indian orthopaedic team has arrived in the capital, Kabul, with 1,000 artificial limbs to be fitted free of charge.

The project is funded by the Indian Government, which has close ties with Afghanistan's new interim government leaders.

The artificial legs, provided by the BMVSS charity based in Jaipur in Rajasthan, have a specially designed foot for use in less developed countries.

The team has set up shop in a disused building in the grounds of Kabul's main army hospital, where it receives a steady flow of patients.

Suffering

They work on the edge of Baimaru Hill, where they look out over the battered Afghan capital where so many have suffered.

Some patients visit to replace artificial legs damaged by years of use, but many come to be fitted with a new limb for the first time.

Colonel Mohavier Singh, who leads the team of 20, said it would take them just over a month on this their third trip to Afghanistan to fit all the limbs.

Afghan minesweeper
The country is littered with landmines

Each prosthetic leg is fitted with a so-called Jaipur foot designed especially for life in South Asia.

Made of flexible rubber, it is suited to rough or hilly ground and allows the user to squat or to sit cross-legged. The workshop is a hive of activity.

After each patient's measurements are taken the upper plastic part of the limb is made and shaped to the correct dimensions.

A day or two later the patient tries out the finished product.

Colonel Singh introduced me to one clearly satisfied customer.

Many more amputees

"My leg was blown up by a rocket from the Taleban side," said Miros Akar, one of the many victims of Kabul's factional fighting.

Half of the Indian team are themselves amputees, moving about nimbly on their Jaipur feet.

Ramesh Takur, who has worked with the team for 16 years, lost his leg in a scooter crash.

As reconstruction begins in Afghanistan and people return to their villages, the landmine problem will continue for years to come.

There will be many more Afghan amputees.

But the work of this orthopaedic team will be gratefully remembered by at least 1,000 people and their families.

See also:

03 Jan 02 | South Asia
Taleban ambassador held in Pakistan
01 Jan 02 | Americas
Bush appoints Afghan envoy
02 Jan 02 | South Asia
Security force inspects Kabul
27 Dec 01 | South Asia
Q&A: Afghan peacekeeping force
02 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Al-Qaeda to struggle on
20 Apr 01 | Showbiz
McCartney pushes for landmine ban
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