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Healing the wounds of Afghan war

By Melissa Jackson
BBC News Online health staff

Afghanistan is a country where the physical scars of war are all too apparent among the thousands of landmine victims who have lost arms and legs or both.
But hope in the face of despair comes in the form of Italian physiotherapist Alberto Cairo and his team, who are helping these people to overcome their disabilities and fears of being "written off" by society.
The Afghanistan orthopaedic project has six centres across the troubled country where it provides artificial limbs and physiotherapy for amputees and fits braces, corsets and orthopaedic shoes for those wounded in wars or by the deadly weapons left behind.

Alberto Cairo fits a young patient with a prosthetic limb

Landmine Danger Dropping Worldwide But Not in Afghanistan

The report, the third edition of "To Walk The Earth In Safety: The United States Commitment to Humanitarian Demining," also finds that the total number of landmines in the ground has dropped to 45 to 50 million in 60 countries, down from the initial assessment of 80 to 110 million landmines worldwide in 1999. It says the decline in the number of reported casualties could be attributed to efforts by the international community to focus on mine awareness education, greater clearance of mines and other unexploded ordnance, and on better reporting capabilities.
But in Afghanistan, the danger from landmines and unexploded ordnance is a daily threat. As Afghan civilians continue to flee their homes seeking refuge from the bombing in their country, the United Nations is warning that special care must be taken to avoid deadly landmines that litter the territory.
Speaking from Islamabad, Dan Kelly, manager of the UN Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan, said that the danger of existing minefields was compounded by the fact that the coalition bombing of military installations had struck some ammunition depots. "When these depots get hit, they spray all kinds of ordnance over a five kilometre (three mile) radius," he said, noting that some of the depots were in urban areas. "What is left on the ground unexploded is very dangerous and should not be touched."
The United Nations considers Afghanistan to be one of the most mine and unexploded ordnance affected countries in the world, with at least 732 million square metres of the country still mined.

Alberto Cairo fits a young patient with a prosthetic limb