Simran, 6, was playing near her home with her brother Fayaz, 4. She saw something that looked like a ball on the ground and went to pick it up.
The bomb exploded and killed her instantly. Fayaz lost both legs.
“It was a living nightmare,” says Firdousa, their mother.
Fayaz and Simran are not the only cases: in Jammu and Kashmir, explosive remnants of war still regularly claim the lives of people living in areas contaminated close to the border. In fifteen year, more than 3,600 causalities have been reported.
Many people don't know enough about the risks
“In these areas close to the border, many villagers don’t know enough about the risk of explosive remnants of war or where they are. There are still a lot of accidents and they are often fatal,” explains Mehran Khan, our mine risk education and rehabilitation project manager in Jammu and Kashmir.
Since April 2015, Handicap International, in partnership with the Help Foundation, has raised the awareness of more than 10,500 people in 250 villages by handing out leaflets and organizing awareness sessions and workshops. They have also trained more than one hundred volunteers and caregivers about the risks of explosive remnants of war.
Families need to walk for miles to get rehabilitation
Handicap International also aims at ensuring the most vulnerable people have access to rehabilitation services.
“Rehabilitation centers are mainly concentrated in towns. Families living in the mountains need to walk for miles to get to a health center. It can take hours to bring a child with disabilities to the town of Srinagar. And transport is not always safe and also expensive for them. For all of these reasons, many people stay at home, and don’t receive any kind of treatment,” explains Mehran Khan.
Since 2009, Handicap International has run rehabilitation sessions in partnership with Hope Disability Center and in villages for more than 10,000 people, including 650 mine/conflict victims. The organization also provided more than 1,500 prostheses and orthoses and more than 3,000 mobility aids - wheelchairs, crutches and walking frames - to people with disabilities.
A large number of training sessions have been organized for health professionals (doctors and caregivers) in the early detection of disability during pregnancy and the referral of people with disabilities to appropriate services.
“We also train families to run at-home rehabilitation sessions”, adds Khan.
We want people with disabilities to be included
Although the support we provide to the most vulnerable people is essential, there are many challenges involved.
“One of our priorities is to help people with disabilities, too often rejected and misunderstood, to be included in their communities. Sometimes considered to be ‘useless’, they risk being hidden away. We want them to live freely, to express themselves and to be heard”, says Khan.