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LEGACY OF LOSS - Amputees from Angola’s war struggle to rebuild.doc

LEGACY OF LOSS - Amputees from Angola’s war struggle to rebuild.doc

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Published by etimms5543
Amputees in Angola face an uncertain future.
Amputees in Angola face an uncertain future.

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Published by: etimms5543 on Oct 28, 2013
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Publication: THE DALLAS MORNING NEWSPubDate: 12/29/1997Head: LEGACY OF LOSS Amputees from Angola’s war struggle to rebuildlives in a country rebuilding itself Byline: Ed TimmsCredit: Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning NewsSection: NEWSEdition: HOME FINALPage Number: 1AWord Count: 1944Dateline: MALANGE, AngolaArt: PHOTO(S): (1-7 DMN: Joe Stefanchik) 1. AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE: PintoMALANGE, Angola - Twelve-year-old Pinto Cruz spends his days ina battered wheelchair with two flat tires and a tin can wired on asa footrest.About two inches of bone, thinly covered by a translucentlayer of skin, protrudes from the stump of his right leg. His leftfoot is swollen by edema and covered with sores. He tucks his pantleg under his toes to keep the flies away.There’s no school in his village, a few miles east of Malange.His family lives in a cluster of small mud-brick huts with noelectricity or plumbing. Perhaps 30 feet away is a line of foxholes, obscured by brush - and probably more mines like the onethat blew his leg off. His family cultivates a small plot of landnearby.Angola’s bloody civil war, which ended in 1995, left thissouthern African country devastated, ripping away any semblance of a safety net for its most vulnerable citizens - its disabled andits children.Today, an ailing economy hampers recovery efforts. Hundreds of thousands are displaced, living in crowded and unsanitary urban bairros. Many worry the uncertain peace won’t hold.Despite the bleak prospects, however, Angolans are trying torebuild their lives and their country. Progress is measured,sometimes incrementally, against obstacles that are scarcelyimagined in more developed nations.“There’s still a lot to be done. This is a country that’s beenat war for 30 years . . .” said Beth Mathews, with ConcernWorldwide, an international aid organization that works in Angola.“It’s going to take some time for it all to come together.”Ms. Mathews’ organization focuses its resources on what shedescribes as Angola’s “poorest of the poor” and most vulnerable.Included in that group are the country’s amputees. TheInternational Committee of the Red Cross estimates that one out of every 356 Angolans - about 70,000 total - is an amputee. Thousandsmore have had their limbs twisted or withered by polio, another disease, or infection. For them, traditional farming in Angola -
 
typically cultivating a small plot with a hoe - is difficult, if not impossible.Carefully balancing on his only leg, Domingos Manuel Estevao,47, saws a rough-hewn board on a rickety workbench outside a hut.Chickens and children scamper about the courtyard.He was a soldier for more than a decade, until he lost his leftleg to an antipersonnel mine while clearing a minefield.For years, Mr. Estevao was unable to find work. To survive, hesometimes would beg for money. But he never had enough to providefor his wife and five children.He’s training to be a carpenter in Malange, working with toolsthat wouldn’t be unfamiliar to carpenters a century ago. Liftingheavy objects is difficult because of his disability, as ishandling some tools. He hopes that his new skill will translateinto a better future for his family.At a small tailoring shop in Malange, Manuel Domingos Kudielais at work with other ex-soldiers using pedal-powered sewingmachines. He lost his leg to a mine in 1988. Two friends at theshop, also amputees, were injured by shrapnel from artillery.When he was hospitalized, Mr. Kudiela thought that his painwould never end and that he would never be able to do anything withhis life. He slowly discovered that he could deal both with hisinjury and the future. He learned his trade and opened thetailoring shop, which has become the main source of income for histwo wives and three children.Even with training, the future for these Angolans isuncertain. Their new trades often rely on customers with enoughincome to purchase more than just the basics, in an impoverishedcountry.Josefa Nyanga, 75, lost her left leg to a mine while collectingfood more than 20 years ago. She is one of several disabled womenwho operate a mill in Malange. The mill helps a little, she says, but “no one is making much money.”Aid experts say the country’s disabled citizens may never beable to make enough money to fully support their families.“But it is something,” said Karin Gray, who manages Concern’s program to help the disadvantaged start businesses in Malange.“Most of them are living in pretty minimal conditions, so it helpswith the basics - at least there’s not hunger at home. And it canhelp people restore their self-perception and self-worth.” Not surprisingly, many amputees in Angola don’t cope verywell. They’re often unable to work. Their families often leavethem. Those who live on the streets and beg are often shunned bythe able-bodied.
 
“They drink, sleep on the street and steal,” said JunquieraBarroso, 22, an amputee who started the “Hope” shoe-repair shop inMalange with another disabled soldier. “They go to the market andask for cigarettes and food and become an embarrassment to us. Theylose their limbs and also lose their conscience.”Soft-spoken Joao Baptista, 32, is a former soldier who losthis right leg to an antipersonnel mine in 1993. His wife left himsoon afterward. She didn’t like the way they were living, Mr.Baptista explained, and she found another man.“When a man is poor and disabled, women run from him,” he said.But rather than give up, Mr. Baptista is training to be awelder at the Kuito center. Once he has a job and a little income,he hopes to be reunited with his children, or at the very least getto see more of them.Even those who don’t sink into absolute despair still face adaunting future.Damain Bumba, 38, lost both of his legs when his car hit anantitank mine. He now does little and barely has enough to eat. Helives on a small pension from the army, less than $20 a month, andgets around on a tricycle wheelchair. He spends much of his dayswith other disabled veterans in Kuito.He hasn’t seen his family since 1993. He used to be a driver  before he was injured; now he hopes for the opportunity to betrained as a mechanic. He wants to be able to provide for hisfamily, when and if he’s reunited.“That’s the problem,” he said. “If my family comes tomorrow, Idon’t know what to do.”Eugenia Maria, 24, carries a 20-month-old boy in a sling onher back and balances a small basket and a water jug on her head asshe limps down a residential street.She lost her right leg to a mine in 1993. She has a prostheticleg and walks with the help of crutches. But only so far.Otherwise, her stump starts bleeding. Later in the day, she restson the sidewalk outside Kuito’s gutted and shrapnel-pockedcathedral.Ever since her injury, she has barely subsisted, relying onhelp from aid organizations. In July, she was abandoned by her husband, a former soldier and also an amputee. She has no family inthe area. She lives in a tent, day to day.But she is more fortunate than many amputees, who have yet to be fitted with an artificial limb.The Bomba Alta Orthopedic Center in Huambo, supported by theInternational Red Cross, fits about 40 to 90 Angolans withartificial limbs every month. The staff estimates that there have

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