Children survive Rwandan hell but lose legs to mines

KIGALI - Seven-year-old Grace Berwa returned in peace to her home in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, a month ago after fleeing massacres that killed her mother and father.

On Monday, playing near her home which she shares with her 14-year-old sister and three brothers in the Kaciyru district of the quiet capital, Grace stepped on an anti-personnel mine.

It exploded, sending a sliver of shrapnel through her left eye and slashing her Achilles tendons to shreds at her ankles. 'There appears to be no brain damage. We've kept her awake for two nights to gauge her reactions but she seems normal for now,' said Dr Riccardo Ribas at Kigali's King Faisal hospital.

'It looks like the piece of the mine is lodged either in her eye or nearby. She lost her sight and we have stitched up her feet and done reconstructive surgery on the tendons,' he added.

Grace, lying in bed in the same pink and blue frock she was wearing when the mine exploded, has not spoken since then. Her sister, Bontemps Marie-France, sits at her bedside and speaks for her. Asked what she would do now that Grace was hurt and they had lost their parents, she said: 'We must go home.'

Grace is from Rwanda's Tutsi minority but civilians from each side of the country's ethnic conflict find that coming home after three months of war and massacre only brings more danger. Dr Ribas, a Brazilian with Medecins Sans Frontieres- Holland, said the King Faisal had received three or four mine casualties each day since fighting stopped in Kigali on 4 July. Many are children.

Four were brought in together on Tuesday including one girl who later died of wounds to her abdomen.

'If you are within the killing zone of a mine, we won't see you here. There won't be anything left. It's the ones standing behind other people or just outside the zone that we receive,' Dr Ribas said.

The mines are left from three months of war between the Tutsi-dominated Rwandese Patriotic Front and the former government army. Doctors say despite rumours of booby-traps all they see are typical mine injury cases. 'People returning home must pass through areas where there were battles and run into mines,' Dr Ribas said. 'The basic treatment for mine injuries is amputation. We try to be conservative and keep as much as we can but sometimes you have to take both legs off a little girl.'

The King Faisal's surgical ward is packed with 150 casualties, including 40 mine victims. Two girls have had both legs amputated. Other children have lost arms or legs or suffered head wounds.

Beata Ouzimana, 14, sits on her bed, smiling when spoken to, with her hands under the stumps of her two legs amputated just below the knees. Dr Ribas says the sight of her always upsets him.

'When they come in they are in shock so most don't talk. When they gain confidence about this place they smile. But if you suddenly raise your arm most of them will run and hide. It seems it is a violent movement and they have seen things before that set them off,' said Dr Ribas. Many patients urgently needed psychological counselling, he said.

Fernando Olinto, a surgeon, said a more urgent problem was lack of a blood bank for transfusions and the high possibility blood was infected with the HIV virus, malaria or hepatitis. 'We try to check it but if someone is about to die we leave it until the last moment and give them anything,' he said. 'Culturally, the Rwandans don't like to donate blood so it is a hell of a problem.'

(Photograph omitted)

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week