Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnian landmine victims receive prostheses and therapy

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Nongovernmental and volunteer organizations are leading efforts to assist victims of landmines that have continued to kill and cripple residents of Bosnia-Herzegovina, long after a civil war in the country ended in 1995.
Among them is the three-year old Rotary Club of Sarajevo, which has co-sponsored a project to provide prostheses and trauma therapy to children, who constitute one-fifth of the casualties of landmines. Most of the victims targeted by the initiative come from families whose homes were destroyed in the war and where more than one member is disabled and at least one parent unemployed.

As a result of the effort to which the Rotary Club of Rottaler-Baderdreieck, Germany, contributed US$35,900, 23 children have been fitted with artificial limbs. Seventeen others have undergone rehabilitation. All the beneficiaries are now leading nearly normal lives in their communities.

The $60,900 project was started in 2001 after The Rotary Foundation provided $25,000 in matching funds. According to the final report sent to the Foundation, members of the Sarajevo club responded enthusiastically to the opportunity to serve, volunteering their time, money, and other resources. Many Rotarians often used their own vehicles to transport victims and their families to and from health centers and provided free accommodation for them.

According to Hans-Jakob Rau, the project's coordinator at the Rotary Club of Rottaler-Baderdreieck, those involved with the effort came out the richer for the experience. "We Rotarians from Germany and Sarajevo succeeded in establishing friendship with project beneficiaries who are highly traumatized due to the nature of their disabilities and extremely difficult social situation," he said. "They are now not only our friends but the friends of Rotary."

In addition, a total of 109 children have been identified, medically assessed, and recommended for assistance by project workers, hospitals, and the health departments of local governments. This process involved extensive counseling of victims and families, as well as referral of beneficiaries for treatment for other medical conditions.

During and after the 15 months it took to implement the project, Bosnian newspapers, radio, and television carried interviews with Rotarians and victims and their families. This has led to more public awareness of the plight of landmine survivors and the role that Rotary is playing in improving their lives. Sections of the German media also have featured the effort in their reports.