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Hope for Libya's War Amputees

Hope for Libya's War Amputees

Thursday, 31 December, 2020 - 07:30
Patients wait for a consultation at a center for artificial limbs in the Libyan port city of Misrata. AFP

For Radwan Jibril, wounded in a bastion of Libya's 2011 revolution, losing his leg became "inevitable" and he had a prosthetic replacement, but thousands of other amputees are still waiting.

An orthopedic center is finally scheduled to open in March to provide prostheses to amputees in the country riven by conflict for the past decade.

Jibril, like so many others, was hit by shrapnel in his western hometown of Misrata, which endured a devastating siege during the revolt that brought down longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

"Despite several medical stays abroad, amputation was inevitable because the injury had been so badly treated. It was all a big shock," he said.

"I was fitted with a prosthesis in Italy but it took a long time to get used to it," said the 38-year-old Libyan, who sports a light beard.

With the support of family, he has opened a fishmonger's where he serves customers as best as he can with "this foreign body", he told AFP, shuffling from stall to stall with one leg stiff.

Now, he feels "like a new man again".

His prosthesis, however, is starting to wear out, and "with hundreds, if not thousands, waiting their turn, it won't be easy" to have it serviced, he said.

Mohamad al-Nouri, 28, had a hand amputated because of an injury while fighting in 2019 in the ranks of the Government of National Accord (GNA) against an offensive by Libyan National Army leader Khalifa Haftar.

He was fitted with an artificial hand but is waiting to go to Germany for a permanent prosthesis.

"I don't think I can go back to the cafe where I worked... I still need a lot of time to regain my confidence," said the young man.

A national center for prostheses, being established in the port city of Misrata, already has a patient waiting list of more than 3,000 amputees, said its director Al-Sadeq al-Haddad.

"In five years, we hope to be able to provide prostheses to all amputees in Libya," said Haddad.

"This will help them get their lives back, together with psychological and physical support," he said.

The center, to be housed in a brand new building, will save the government a "significant sum" of money, said its director.

"A team of Hungarian specialists are to train technicians and run a rehabilitation service for a year," Haddad said.

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