UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

May

Artificial limb program in Sierra Leone seeks to expand services.
Radio repair mechanic Juana Kamara of Mattra, Sierra Leone, had his leg hacked off during the country’s civil war, but now he walks confidently with an artificial limb.
UMNS photo by Phileas Jusu

By David Tereshchuk*

May 30, 2013—Little can evoke the sheer horror of civil war as powerfully as encountering the countless citizens of Sierra Leone whose arms or legs were brutally chopped off by rampaging paramilitary gangs.

Now that Sierra Leone lives in relative peace after those terrible 11 years of violence, the war’s wounds, both physical and emotional, still weigh heavily on the population. But UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has been employing practical measures to improve the lives of those left limbless.

In Bo, the second city of Sierra Leone, located deep in the country’s southern region, The United Methodist Artificial Limb-Fitting Center provides new prosthetic limbs (usually artificial legs) and maintains them—repairing them when possible, or replacing them when worn out.

All this comes free of charge to the wounded, thanks to the generosity of United Methodists and others of goodwill who have supported the program, including—at a crucial early stage—the congregation of Mount Lebanon United Methodist Church in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

The Limb-Fitting Center is run by Lappia Amara, who must by now have aided many hundreds of injured Sierra Leoneans to walk with relative ease—people who previously had little chance of achieving mobility again. Amara says: “When they receive a leg, some of them will cry—tears running from their eyes, as it is the first time they are using the leg.”

One recipient of a prosthetic leg from Amara is Juana Kamara, who repairs radios for a living in a camp for amputees in Mattra. During the war, he was attacked by members of the Revolutionary United Front rebel group who had invaded his former home village. They hacked off the lower part of his right leg with a machete.

Now he has an aluminum prosthesis from the Limb-Fitting Center, and he says it has changed his life. “Before I got the limb,” he reports, “I used to feel very shy to go outside for fear that people might think I was a beggar if they saw me in the street. So I stayed indoors most of the time.”

But, fully mobile now and conducting his radio-repair business, Kamara is increasingly self-reliant and self-confident: “I have learned to walk normally—so normally that no one would know I’m amputated when I’m in trousers. I own a bicycle and can ride well. I ride into Bo and back [a total distance of 100 miles] frequently,” he says.

UMCOR’s support for the program is aimed at ramping up its service—with the target of doubling the number of limbs provided, from the current approximately 10 new limbs per month to about 20.

Ted Warnock, a Global Ministries missionary for Special Projects with UMCOR Health, explains that the expansion also involves increased outreach visits to amputees who cannot afford to come from their villages to the center.

The hope is also to expand the service among upper-arm amputees, including the more complex fitting of artificial hands. “We plan to further broaden the work and issue wheelchairs to polio survivors,” adds Warnock, “and provide camps for the limb-fitting process.”

Your gift to General Health and Ministry Programs, Advance #3020622, will help limbless survivors of war like those in Sierra Leone.

* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.

Your gift to General Health and Ministry Programs, Advance #3020622, will help limbless survivors of war like those in Sierra Leone.

Manager Lappia Amara at the United Methodist Artificial Limb-Fitting Center in Bo, Sierra Leone.
Manager Lappia Amara at the United Methodist Artificial Limb-Fitting Center in Bo, Sierra Leone.
UMNS photo by Phileas Jusu