Almost 35 years after the end of the Liberation War, Zimbabwe’s border communities are still living, working and walking to school beside some of the densest minefields in the world. With so many people in such close proximity to the minefields it is no surprise that accidents still occur and that there are many mine survivors amongst the communities.
During our work in the country to survey and clear mines, we found that there is virtually no support network for the survivors. Many have received only one very basic leg decades ago; some have received nothing. The basic legs have no prosthetic foot and so are unusable in the rainy months when the tracks and field are soft and muddy. Nearly all these people rely on subsistence agriculture so if they cannot access their fields they have no source of income. It is not uncommon for children to be taken out of school to work in the fields to keep the family going.
With funding from the United States Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and the British Charity ZANE, HALO has partnered with Cassim’s Prosthetics to provide new and improved prosthetic limbs for the mine survivors. Mr Cassim is himself a Zimbabwean who has been providing prosthetics for over 40 years. In the 1990s he was heavily involved with supporting victims of the war in neighbouring Mozambique.
Mine survivors are identified by HALO and are brought to Mr Cassim who takes the relevant measurements. Six week later Mr Cassim returns with the limbs. So far we have provided limbs to eight men and one woman; another nine people have been measured and should receive limbs by December. The impact is transformative. “This season we are going to plough our land, now that we can use our legs.”
Case study: Mr. Masapa
Mr. Nyahanga Masapa is a 78 year old farmer. He has three children and several grandchildren and lives with his wife in Nyakatondo village near the border town of Mukumbura. In August 2000, Mr Musapa was tending to his field in what he believed was a safe area. He stepped on an anti-personnel mine with his right foot and was subsequently rushed to hospital in Harare. Sadly, his foot could not be saved and his leg was amputated below the knee.
Mr. Musapa did not receive any assistance for getting a prosthetic limb. Over time he improvised and built his own peg leg. Although helpful, his peg leg was far from ideal. It frequently got stuck in difficult ground, particularly in rainy season. He found it very hard to provide for his dependents. As if life for the family were not hard enough with Mr Musapa’s injury, his wife developed cataracts eight years ago and had not seen her grandchildren.
HALO and Cassim’s Prosthetics identified Mr Musapa as a needy candidate and through our combined efforts he has since been fitted with a proper prosthetic limb. Simultaneously, HALO arranged with local NGO, Zimbabwe Council for the Blind, for Mrs. Musapa to have a cataract operation. She has had vision restored, has seen her grandchildren for the first time and is able to help Mr. Musapa with the daily chores of life.