OMAR page header

De-miners work against time
For those involved in various aspects of de-mining - from clearing agricultural fields to building prosthetic limbs and teaching mine awareness - there is nothing else to do but to keep working.
To date, many of the more dangerous de-mining programs remain shut down by war, since many foreign and Afghan experts left the country because of hostilities.
One particularly successful program, the Mine Dog Center in Kabul, which uses trained dogs to sniff out explosive material as far as a meter underground, suffered from a stray bomb in the US air assault. Four dogs and a trainer died.
But other programs, particularly those run by Afghan nationals, continue to help Afghan mine victims get back on their feet and into productive lives.
Tucked away in a corner lot at Jalalabad's Public Hospital, Dr. Abdul Baseer and his staff of 11 employees help young victims regain their mobility.
His nonprofit group, the Afghan Amputee Bicyclists for Rehabilitation and Recreation (AABRAR), has helped more than 2,500 children and young adults to receive prosthetic limbs, physical therapy, and literacy education.
Most children learn job skills - girls learn to sew, boys learn to fix bicycles - and an ethos of hard work.
Dr. Baseer, a gentle giant with mischievous green eyes, says the selling point for young amputees are the free bicycles.
"The main thing that keeps disabled people from getting jobs is transportation," he explains. "When you lose a leg, you lose mobility. At first, we thought of buying everyone cars, but who would pay for that. Now we give bicycles. And we tell our patients, 'you are not disabled.' You may have lost a leg, but you are able to do something with your lives."

In the courtyard of AABRAR, a group of young amputees are riding bicycles around the tattered net of a volleyball court.
One is Ajmal, a bushy-haired 17-year-old who lost his left leg while collecting firewood near his village in the Bisur district north of Jalalabad. Ajmal was 9 years old at the time of the accident.
"It was very difficult for me to realize that I would be a person without a leg," says Ajmal, leaning against the handlebars of his sturdy red bike. "But if something happens, it happens. You can't ask why."
From another charity group, Ajmal learned how to become a trader, and this week, he has brought his sewing machine to Jalalabad to restart his business now that the fighting has stopped.
"Many people respect me, because I have a trade, but others call me 'cripple,' " he says. "I don't like that. My name is Ajmal."
It's an optimism shared by Afzal, the milkshake vendor, who lost his leg to a Russian land mine.
"I am independent now, and I'm not asked to beg," says Afzal with a smile. "People reward me and respect me. They say, 'Look, he lost his leg, but he's courageous. He's doing something with his

Like a 'mad dog chasing you'
The military garrison in Jalalabad was once the base for Taliban troops. It is now held by the Afghan warlord and new provincial military chief, Haji Zaman Ghamsharik.
Here, young soldiers have begun clearing away the unexploded ordnance from cluster bombs left by American bombing raids.
Their methods are crude. They simply shoot at the bomblets with their Kalashnikov assault rifles.

"When they see a mine, they shoot it," says Nasir Ahmad, the de-miner for OMAR. "One of the bomblets will go off, and then it sets off the other ones around it. They shoot and then have to run away. It's like a mad dog chasing you."

By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Boys playing with unexplodes ordanance

Bald statistics are valuable to those who know Afghanistan. They conjure images of a young boy lying in a hospital bed with a gap where his leg should be, who one day before was sitting out on the mountainside eating a picnic, watching the sheep. Or a young mechanic who, out of curiosity, bent down to pick up what he thought was a pen, and will now never hold a spanner in his right hand again. Or an old man with bandages round his head and no eyes, who was out digging clay to repair the roof of his house to protect from the coming rain.
But statistics cannot in themselves give much idea of the fearful lives that people must lead in order to survive in mine-infested Afghanistan. Statistics are feeble things: "50+ accidents every week" is the kind of thing your eye glides over registering little. And yet what a wealth of misery it can cover:
The shock of the explosion which means you feel nothing for a few minutes; then the pain flooding over your body; the wait for help, lying in the minefield losing blood; the sight of your shattered and jagged bones sticking out from the end of your leg; the horror and fear of your companion or helper; the wondering if you will live or die; the journey to hospital on a horse and cart, or a car, or somebody's shoulders; the arrival at hospital where there may be no surgeon to treat the injury; the scrabble for money to try to raise the sum necessary for an operation; the difficult task of cleaning the wounds of dirt, shrapnel, and bone; the likely amputation; the phantom pains following the amputation; lack of physiotherapy; the possibility of infection of the wounds and the bone; the good chance that the amputation is not done properly, leaving sharp pieces of bone pushing into the stump; the second operation required to recut the bone in order to make it suitable for a prosthesis; the lack of mobility of a wheelchair or prosthesis; the impossibility of a disabled person finding a job; the shame of being a burden to family and community; the reduced likelihood of marriage, and children.