About the Author: Kelly McCaleb is a Foreign Service Officer currently serving in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Landmine use in Iraq, most significantly during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, has resulted in a staggering number of civilian amputees in need of prosthetics. The Iraqi Ministry of Health has estimated that the country has more than 50,000 amputees, many of whom were injured as a result of accidents involving mines or unexploded ordnance. In response, the U.S. State Department is partnering with Rotary International to deliver advanced training and supplies needed by Iraqi doctors to provide essential care in communities recovering from decades of conflict.
The Basra Prosthetics Project was founded in 2003 with the aim of enabling the Iraqi Ministry of Health to make a greater impact among amputees by providing training to doctors and prosthetic technicians who work in the Basra Prosthetic and Rehabilitation Center. The project, supported by Rotary International and the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, sends prosthetic devices and supplies to Iraq and trains doctors to fit people with artificial limbs.
The Basra Prosthetics Project was designed to meet the unique and demanding needs of amputees, and the training prepares the Iraqi medical team to provide appropriate and advanced treatment to landmine survivors.
In countries recovering from conflict, lingering threats from landmines and unexploded ordnance can continue to claim lives and hinder development long after the end of a conflict. The United States is the world's single largest financial supporter of efforts to clear these hidden killers, providing more than $1.8 billion in aid in 80 countries since 1993.
Survey and clearance operations are only half of the story; our humanitarian mine action programs also support victims' assistance and rehabilitation programs such as the Basra Prosthetics Project, which help survivors of past conflicts acquire job skills, receive medical services, gain a sense of community, and a more hopeful future.
Drs. Kamal Y. Yousif and Muslim A. Yousuf from the Basra Prosthetic and Rehabilitation Center are currently participating in a three-week training program hosted by St. Petersburg College in Florida. The two physicians are also accompanied by two technicians from the clinic. This is the first U.S.-based training mission for the Iraqi team, which will gain exposure to new technology, materials, and methods to take home to their state-run clinic.
Dr. Kamal helped establish the Basra clinic in 1994 to provide service to patients suffering from mine injuries, amputations, and other deformities. The clinic is the only one of its kind in the region and services the four surrounding provinces, Basra, Maisan, Thiqar, and Simawa.
While the Basra clinic currently designs prosthetics for 45 to 50 patients every month, Dr. Yousif, the clinic director, hopes to expand the clinic's capabilities by creating the first Iraqi training program for technicians in Basra. He also dreams of eventually opening smaller clinics in remote communities that will serve patients who are unable to travel hundreds of kilometers to Basra for treatment.
The U.S. Department of State granted $1.7 million to support the Basra Prosthetic Project and continues to encourage the development of the clinic's capabilities. Future plans envision connecting Dr. Kamal with the State Department's Provincial Reconstruction Team in Basra to support the clinic's important work for many years to come.