CHAD: Paying for fallout of landmines, UXO

News and Press Release
Originally published
N'DJAMENA, 8 January 2010 (IRIN) - More than half of Chad's nine million people live near sites potentially contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO) or landmines, according to the national demining centre. The government says more than 100 people are killed or wounded every year by landmines or UXO; aid organizations cover the bulk of medical care and rehabilitation for mine victims, according to NGO Handicap International.

Chad's national demining centre (CND) is drafting a mine victim assitance plan but has been stalled by insufficient funding, according to CND's technical advisor, Assane Nguedoum.

CND, which is mandated to assist mine and UXO victims, lacks experience, funding and capacity, according to Handicap International's 2009 report that surveyed war survivors about their rehabilitation.

Of 58 respondents, 43 percent said physical rehabilitation services had improved since 2005, with 41 percent indicating the government was increasing its funds for such services. But 74 percent said survivors "never" received the economic reintegration assistance they needed and 42 percent thought economic follow-up support from the government had stagnated or deteriorated since 2005. Results were similar regarding psychological support.

CND advisor Nguedoum told IRIN the government has taken a number of steps, including passing legislation in May 2007 to protect mine victims, providing free medical and rehabilitation care and distributing 20 tricycles funded by UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Who pays?

NGO Handicap International's report said the financing burden for mine victim assistance falls on international non-profits, who cover the cost of transportation, surgery and follow-up care, including prosthetics.

"The Red Cross paid for my prosthetic leg," said Francois Chegue, who told IRIN he was wounded in a mine explosion in northern Chad in 1996. When his right leg was amputated, Chegue was fitted for a prosthetic at the Centre for Bracing and Re-education (CARK) in the capital N'djamena, one of two NGO-financed rehabilitation centres in Chad.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) covered almost US$60,000 a year in prosthetics for those wounded in conflict nationwide in 2008 and 2009. Costs range from $4 for a patient visit to more than $400 for a tricycle at CARK.

The government budgeted $1.7 million each for CND operation expenses and staff salaries in 2009, according to a CND report last February.

Bouba Martin heads CARK's orthopaedic care and told IRIN he is one of about a dozen Chadian physical therapists who returned to work in Chad after training in other countries. "We start at $240 and can earn up to $400 a month if in a good position. But even if more people were trained, where would they work? The government does not employ physical therapists. It is the Catholics who pay us."

CARK is financed by ICRC and the Catholic organization Catholic Development Aid, known as SECADEV.