Sudan: April 4th, International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance, Overcoming injuries related to landmines

Even after the large scale civil war between south and north Sudan, conflicts continue especially in areas such as Western Darfur. Many landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) are still left in many areas, resulting in accidents every year. In 2015 alone, 33 people were killed and 71 were injured in various parts of the country. Although the government started taking measures against landmine activity in earnest, it had to suspend its assistance of landmine victims in 2012 due to budgetary constraints and a need to focus on the clearance of mines/UXOs.

AAR Japan has been working on mine risk education to protect people from the dangers of mines and UXOs. Since July of last year, it has conducted support activities to assist victims in Kassala in east Sudan, which is one of the most severely affected regions of mines and UXOs. Support is largely divided into three groups; (1) Providing artificial legs, tricycles, and rehabilitation. (2) Assistance of mine victims to restore their previous lives in terms of their earnings and relationship with the community. (3) Drawing up national strategies to assist mine victims.

At present, there are no reliable statistics as to how many victims there are in Sudan. When starting our assistance, we collected information on 396 people by frequently visiting the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Disabled People Organization, and the Mine Action Center. Then, based on a variety of criterion, such as an aptitude to receive rehabilitation and past history of assistance, we selected 35 people with a particular focus on those affected by landmine activity.

Pleasant and Proud Life with Artificial Legs, Carefree Outing on a Tricycle

Artificial legs and tricycles were provided through the National Authority of Prosthetics and Orthotics in Kassala and physical therapists were employed and dispatched by AAR, as there were no qualified persons at the Center. Khalid Ahmed Osman (age 41, left in the picture), a former truck driver, is one of the five receivers of artificial legs. When driving his truck two years ago, it passed over an anti-vehicle landmine. His life was saved but he had to have his left leg amputated. Since then he had to walk on crutches, and even when he went to the market, he couldn’t work properly. As a result, he was regarded as an impediment and was heckled by other people, which was very difficult for him to bear. When I first met him, he was worried what other people would think of him, and looked timid and nervous as if someone was going to slander him. But when I met him three months later, he was accustomed to using his new artificial leg and was walking steadily. What impressed me most was that he had restored his confidence and he had a cheerful and proud expression on his face.
Khalid Ahmed Osman (left) is getting a mold made for his artificial leg. When I met him three months later, his facial expression was quite different (Kassala State, Sudan; following pictures were all taken at Kassala, December 13th, 2016)

Most of the roads are still unpaved and uneven in Sudan, so we imported from Kenya hand-driven tricycles that are designed to be used on unleveled land. These tricycles were given to those forced to crawl in order to move as a result of leg amputation or paralysis due to mine accidents or polio. In Sudan, persons with disabilities can take public transportation such as buses and shared taxies for free, but what is difficult for them is how to move from their house to the bus stop, or from where they get off to where they want to go. Those who were provided with tricycles are now able to visit their friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood without feeling constrained, and they can go to the market often to sell things.
This woman, who received a tricycle, was glad to say, “I’d like to visit
my friends’ houses in the neighborhood by riding this tricycle.’ (January 12th, 2017)

To Restore Previous Life Before the Landmine Disaster

The lives of landmine victims and their families are changed drastically after a landmine accident.  The victims whose legs or arms were amputated because of such accidents, or who have lost their mobility due to paralysis, or lost their eyesight are unlikely to go back to work. AAR decided to help such victims by offering to help them start a small business. Applicants to this program were invited by an extensive advertising campaign on the radio and TV in Kassala. We then provided 20 of them with (1) a hut and goods to run a small shop (see the picture below) or (2) sheep to raise on a pasture (see the picture on the right), according to their wishes.

A mine victim who was supplied with sheep. For those who use artificial legs after leg amputation, it is difficult to walk for a long time, so they leave their sheep with a shepherd during the day and have them returned in the evening. (March 16, 2017)
A man and his family who received assistance from AAR. In the back are a hut and goods he was provided with to start a small-scale business.(March 15th, 2017)
An AAR logo is printed on one side of his hut. (March 27h, 2017)

The twenty people who received AAR assistance hadn’t had stable jobs after their accident.  They managed to work by the day, but they couldn’t make enough money to support their family and many of them were in debt. AAR plans to continue monitoring and providing vocational instruction to ensure that their businesses can continue smoothly.
At the start of small scale businesses, AAR gave training to those receiving assistance. (February 9th, 2017)

Show Myself as I Am

The damage caused from a landmine accident goes beyond the physical; the psychological effects are equally as damaging. Mental issues arising from these accidents continue to afflict victims for many years, with some victims unable to return to their community because of guilty feelings or discrimination. To assist, AAR put on a workshop with all those receiving assistance (picture left). During a psychological counseling session, one participant burst into tears and for a moment we could briefly see that each participant had some harsh memory imbedded deep within their minds.
At a psychological counseling workshop. (February 7th, 2017)

On the other hand, this initiative has changed the behavior of one of our participants.  According to Batoul Haroun Osman (age 42, right in the picture below), despite having difficulty in walking without assistance due to paralysis in her legs, she managed to raise her three children. Her neighboring housewives would come to her house every day, perhaps out of curiosity, to see how she was doing her housework. As she couldn’t bear to show herself crawling on the floor, she just sat still until the wives had gone back. Listening to her counselor’s advice, she recognized that she was not imperfect and so decided to show herself as she was.  On returning home, when the wives came to her house as usual, she proudly showed how she did housework, crawling on the floor. The housewives went back home immediately. How you face your disability and how you deal with it will influence how you can live your life thereafter and how you can build your relationship with society. Indeed, psychological counseling remains an essential activity for these landmine victims.
Batoul Haroun Osman (right) and a physical therapist employed by AAR (left). Batoul was always worried about how other people would think of her. She was very encouraged by her counselor ( January 31st , 2017)

New Strategies to Be Conducted This Year

In Sudan, there used to be national strategies and five-year-plans to assist landmine victims, which were developed with the support of the global community. But after the five-year-plan expired in 2012, these strategies were left unrevised, which led to a period of void, as mentioned at the beginning of this article. In order to breakthrough this situation, in accordance with a request by the Sudan office of UNMAS (United Nations Mine Actin Service), AAR started to support drafting national strategies. In August last year, the first workshop was held where people involved in the mine victims’ assistance action got together for the first time in several years. Then, a number of meetings were conducted with relative persons to draft a document that would later be submitted to the government in March of this year. After the document is approved, new national strategies will be enforced during the year.
Workshop for national strategy development of the mine victim support(August 31st, 2016)

The Mine Action Team of AAR Sudan, which has become somewhat of a specialized unit on mine risk education, has learnt a great deal from this first-time experience. Through these activities, we have built a stronger rapport with landmine victims, learning their pain, sadness, and dreams for the future. With this in mind, I believe we will be able to develop better educational materials for future victims. As the only NGO implementing anti-landmine activities in Sudan, AAR Japan will continue its efforts to support and provide the people of Sudan with a safer way of life.


Fukuro KAKIZAWA[Reporter] AAR JAPAN Sudan Office
Deployed to Sudan Office between June 2016 and April 2017. Started working at AAR Tokyo Office in May 2013, supporting operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Engaged in emergency assistance to the Philippine Typhoons in 2013. Grew up in Kanagawa

Japanese-English translation by Ms.Hiroko Hida
English editing by Mr. Joseph Scutella

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan's Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.