The first physical rehabilitation centre in northern Myanmar opened last week and is expected to eventually serve up to 1,500 patients a year, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
The 60-bed centre which opened in the Kachin State capital, Myitkyina, on November 29, was designed and funded by the ICRC at a cost of K1.98 billion (about US$1.5 million).
It will significantly improve access for patients needing prosthesis, orthosis and physiotherapy in the north of the country, particularly those injured by landmines or other unexploded ordnance, the ICRC said in a statement.
“Previously, patients would have had to travel to Mandalay, more than 20 hours away by bus from Myitkyina, for consultations and physiotherapy and to get their prosthesis fitted,” said Mr Jurg Montani, head of the ICRC delegation in Myanmar.
The centre, recently handed over to the Ministry of Health and Sports, is the second-biggest such facility in the world to be supported by the ICRC after one in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Afghanistan, Cambodia and Myanmar are among the countries most affected by landmines, which as well as causing direct civilian casualties have a big impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
Conflict in Kachin and northern Shan State has displaced more than 100,000 people since a ceasefire collapsed in 2011 and many people are afraid to return to their homes because of landmines.
“Though not a solution to the problem of weapon contamination, the physical rehabilitation centre will help alleviate the suffering it causes, and at the same time boost national expertise and capacity to provide physical rehabilitation services for people with disabilities,” said Montani.
The Geneva-based ICRC has been running a physical rehabilitation program in Myanmar since 1986. It fully supports a physical rehabilitation facility run by the Myanmar Red Cross in the Kayin State capital, Hpa-an, supports the Yenanthar Leprosy Hospital near Mandalay, and recently finished building another centre at Kengtong, in eastern Shan State.
Since 1979, the ICRC’s physical rehabilitation program has been supporting people with disabilities at more than 165 centres in 48 conflict-affected countries.