WASHINGTON D.C. – On the fringes of the Syrian conflict, the National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs helps victims move forward, functioning as a workshop to construct artificial limbs and a physical therapy clinic.
Directors of this clinic have provided limbs and therapy for more than 350 patients, affording to do so because it adopted the inexpensive Jipur Leg. Initially developed in India, this prosthetic model serves as a quality replacement at a low cost.
Abdullah el Mawlah, age 18, initially entered the clinic as a patient before returning as an employee to help others with war wounds.
While traveling in the back of a pick-up truck, an anti-aircraft gun hit him and his family. Fire strafed his leg, mangling it before he, in excruciating pain, pleaded with doctors at a Turkish hospital to amputate what was left of it. Inevitably, his wounds obtained and infection forcing the doctors to amputate his left leg above the knee.
Mawlah remains dedicated to rehabilitating other victims in Syria, especially since he understands that prosthesis restores feelings of independence and hope. Such efforts give many new strength such as Ahmed Mohammed, a patient who recently took his first few steps on an artificial leg.
He lost his leg in an explosion at Aleppo, a city devastated by both rebel and government forces. A map of purple scars spreads across his right leg, detailing the pain of the conflict. According to Mohammed, a piece of shrapnel remains lodged in his back.
To establish proper fit, clinic technicians adjusted the knee joint of his prosthesis before he tested his balance. Patients often need months of physical therapy, as well as a number of different prostheses.
“The first and second limbs are temporary,” said Raad al Masri, a director of the project “The third or fourth become permanent.”
Physicians outside Syria volunteer their services as well.
For instance, Viquar Qurashi has fitted artificial legs to more than 100 Syrian victims using an unconventional material: plastic drainpipes. In a refugee camp along the Syrian border, he molded drainpipes in an oven before having them conformed to the proper shape and fit for the amputee. The physician then crafted artificial feet with recycled rubber from car tires. In total, this process costs $49 while an artificial limb typically costs $1,960. These artificial limbs reportedly survive seven or more years while the low cost allows for simple replacement.
Dr. Qurashi initially performed this procedure in the 2007 Pakistan earthquake, estimating that he fitted and rehabilitated more than 3,000 men, women and children. Developing war-torn nations like Syria would vastly benefit from his innovation. For this reason, he hopes to one day return to the region and train fellow physicians.
Dr. Qurashi, furthermore, volunteered in a clinic within his home country of Pakistan as the casualties of the two-year war mounted. He performed hundreds of amputations, but soon become conscious of the limited resources available to his patients after the surgeries.
“They would be left to either become beggars or to die in hospitals of bed sores,” Qurashi said.
With artificial limbs, patients return to their profession or education, helping restore the vitality of the local economy.
Dr. Qurashi selected ten volunteer technicians to continue his efforts in Syria. In 2005, he established the Naya Qadam Trust which “aims to protect [the]life and dignity of amputees by manufacturing low cost” prosthetics. He also intends to train physicians to construct and fit these limbs in nations such as Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Vietnam.
– Ellery Spahr