In July, Nemad - a Bosnian army scout from Gornji Vakuf, on the Muslim front line - stepped on a mine, on patrol close to his home. 'I am rejoining my unit in three days. I am going back to Bosnia to fight,' he said. Curiously, there was no hatred in his face, no apparent bitterness for those who had caused the injury resulting in the amputation. He might as well have been talking about going back to his office. And like so many amputees Nemad has developed a dark sense of humour.
'It will be easier. Only one foot to keep dry and warm. I feel pretty good. It has not been so difficult to learn to walk,' he said.
Since August 1991, 517 soldiers and 185 civilians who have lost part or all of a limb - mostly lower leg - have been rehabilitated at the hospital. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has trained three Croatian physiotherapists in fitting the prostheses.
The Bozidareviceva Hospital has a waiting list of 110 soldiers and 175 civilians. Civilians wait about a year and soldiers about a month. Most are Croatian but about a fifth are Bosnian. To the staff it is immaterial whose side the patients are on. WHO estimates that since the war began in the former Yugoslavia, there have been 2,500 amputations. WHO is monitoring rehabilitation work in Zagreb, Split, Bihac, Sarajevo, Tusla and Belgrade with a budget of nearly dollars 30m this year.
In a large mirrored gymnasium at the hospital (which looked disconcertingly like a ballet studio) 30 or so men were being put through their paces. The mirror is to encourage them not to look down at their feet, otherwise they tend to develop an unnatural, rolling gait.
The walking training is excellent but little is done outside the the help the men give each other in terms of counselling. In young men like Nemad, the physical process takes a surprisingly short time. A temporary prosthesis can be fitted in about 10 days and with walking therapy three or four times a week, the final prosthesis can be fitted in six months. The mental healing takes longer.
The Independent Bosnia Appeal, launched last week, already totals more than pounds 11,000. Relief agencies are redoubling their efforts to help the 2.7 million people in the former Yugoslavia who are dependent on aid, as winter bites hard, with temperatures down to minus 25C. Convoys are moving food and, occasionally, materials for shelter and warmth into central Bosnia and the besieged Muslim enclaves, but nowhere near enough to meet the demand.
Charities ranging from well- known organisations such as Christian Aid, Help the Aged and Save the Children to lesser-known groups are playing their part but more financial help is urgently needed. If you would like to support one or more of the charitable organisations please send a separate cheque for each donation, made payable to the organisation - with the wording as indicated below - and send to: Bosnia Appeal, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.
1 War Child Now; 2 Victims of War Appeal (former Yugoslavia) - this for the Red Cross; 3 Care; 4 Cafod (Bosnia); 5 Christian Aid (Bosnia); 6 Edinburgh Direct Aid; 7 Feed the Children; 8 Help the Aged Former Yugoslavia Appeal; 9 Islamic Relief Bosnia Fund; 10 Marie Stopes International (Bosnia); 11 Oxfam; 12 The Refugee Council; 13 Save the Children Fund; 14 Scottish European Aid; 15 UNA Trust Bosnia.
For every donation to one or more charity, the Independent will add 10 per cent, up to pounds 30,000.
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