Reconstructive surgery helps restore vital functions for mutilation victims in northern Uganda

News and Press Release
Originally published
"There is no greater offence to our sense of humanity than to see people who have been so deliberately and barbarically disfigured," said Christine Schmitz, Head of Mission for MSF in Uganda.

Kampala - MSF: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Interplast Holland today began the provision of reconstructive surgery to civilians mutilated in the course of the conflict in northern Uganda. Many villagers have been mutilated - including having lips, ears, noses or fingers cut off - as part of the extensive violence directed at civilians in the region in recent years.

In collaboration with the reconstructive surgeon, MSF will facilitate operations for the first group of 12 patients this week. In this round of interventions, individuals will undergo surgical procedures including the reconstruction of lips. Some of the victims have multiple mutilations.

"There is no greater offence to our sense of humanity than to see people who have been so deliberately and barbarically disfigured. When we were first confronted with victims of mutilation, some of whom had had their lips cut off, we quickly realized that reconstructive surgery would help enable them to regain some quality of life," said Christine Schmitz, Head of Mission for MSF in Uganda. "The MSF team will also provide counseling so that these patients can learn to live with these horrifying experiences."

"We have selected these first patients based on the fact that their mutilation has made it impossible for them to lead a normal life," explained Dr. Rein Zeeman, a Dutch reconstructive surgeon from Interplast Holland. "You have to realize that it is almost impossible for a person without lips to eat or drink. We want to help this group as quickly as possible."

Since most of the patients will need multiple surgical interventions, MSF and Interplast will organize additional rounds of surgery every three to six months. These rounds will also include new patients.

The operations will take place in St. Joseph's Missionary Hospital in Kitgum. Dr. Rein Zeeman will lead the surgical team, accompanied by one Ugandan reconstructive surgeon and one anesthetist. MSF worked with Interplast to identify candidates for surgery, and organised the cooperation between the organisations.

The hospital's medical staff has helped prepare the operating facilities and both MSF and hospital staff will be involved in the patients' post-operative care.

MSF is an international humanitarian organisation providing medical aid to populations in distress, victims of natural or man-made disasters, and victims of armed conflict, regardless of race, religion, creed or political convictions. The organisation has been working in Uganda since 1982.

MSF in Uganda

Today, MSF has 67 international aid workers and 900 Ugandan staff running programmes in six districts. These activities include humanitarian assistance in 20 internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in northern Uganda, provision of malaria diagnosis and treatment, as well as management of patients with particular diseases such as HIV/AIDS and kala azar.

MSF's medical programmes in the Gulu, Kitgum, Lira and Pader districts of northern Uganda continue to provide assistance to displaced people living in camps although MSF international staff has been reduced and its movements restricted due to recent violent attacks on aid workers and civilians in the region.


The Dutch Interplast Foundation conducts reconstructive surgery for children and adults in developing countries using teams of experienced Dutch reconstructive surgeons, operation assistants, anesthesiologists and other health care professionals.

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