The Workshop on Assistance to Landmine Survivors and Victims in Southeastern Europe: Defining Strategies for Success, Ig, Slovenia, July 1-2, 2002


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Participants from throughout southeastern Europe and around the world gathered in Ig, Slovenia, just outside the capital city of Ljubljana, to discuss and provide suggestions for improving mine victim assistance (MVA) in the Balkans.


by Sarah B. Taylor, MAIC

Participants gathered for two days at the ITF headquarters in Ig, Slovenia. c/o MAIC

Introduction

Organized by the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF) and the Mine Action Information Center (MAIC) at James Madison University (JMU), the Workshop on Assistance to Landmine Survivors and Victims in Southeastern Europe: Defining Strategies for Success (DSS) was designed to bring together representatives of Mine Action Centers (MACs), governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in southeastern Europe and members of the ITF Board of Advisers. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss and provide suggestions for improving regional funding, cooperation and coordination for MVA in the Balkans. In order to accomplish this goal, organizers provided a forum for donors—specifically members of the ITF Board of Advisers—MACs and NGOs to come together and identify gaps in current services and resources, as well as to discuss strategies for effective regional coordination of survivor and victim assistance programs. The final phase of this project will be the creation of a set of written proceedings that will summarize the events and outcomes of the workshop and hopefully facilitate a greater understanding of the needs among all involved parties.

Facilitator Dr. Terry Wessel welcomes participants to the workshop during the opening session. C/o MAIC

The First Day: Country Status Reports, Gaps, Regional Approach and NGO Perspectives

MAIC Victim Assistance Team Leader and workshop facilitator Dr. Terry Wessel began the first day by welcoming all of the participants to the workshop. His Excellency Hugh Mortimer, the British Ambassador and the Chairman of the ITF Board of Advisers, was the first speaker of the day, and he set the tone for the rest of the workshop by urging participants to first identify the existing problems because, as he noted, “identifying the problem is halfway to finding a solution.” To achieve this goal, he called for the identification of current gaps and recommendations for filling these needs. Finally, he stated that he believed the problem is not a lack of funding, but instead the available money is directed toward other places. Thus, he asked participants to discuss whether or not funds are sufficient and whether they are best directed locally, globally or through NGOs.

The first day of the workshop was dedicated to country status reports, gaps, regional approaches and NGO perspectives. Representatives of specific countries and NGOs were able to present their current achievements and existing needs. Dr. Goran Cerkez, of the Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) Ministry of Health, presented information on the current status in this area. While he found major improvements in the field of education, Cerkez stated that there was a great need for a centralized healthcare system and regional coordination. He also placed a high priority on training. He commented that these issues needed to be addressed for future improvements.

Ms. Lilijana Calic-Zmiric, of the Croatian Mine Action Center (CROMAC), presented participants with an overview of the current standing of Croatia. Croatia has highly developed emergency medical care and continuing medical care programs; however, as the government’s health system does not have adequate funding, further rehabilitation, including prosthesis production and adjustment, needs to be developed. Ms. Calic-Zmiric also discussed recent music workshops that were held in Rovinj, including studies in guitar, bass guitar, music theory and sound mixing, among others. While she agreed that a great deal of progress has been made in Croatia, she also stated that many challenges exist. She noted the importance of an accurate database in MVA. Implementing programs is another struggle for Croatia, due mainly to a lack of manpower. Finally, she commented on the great need for future funding.

Dr. Helena Burger of the Institute for the Rehabilitation of the Republic of Slovenia (IRRS) gave the final country status report. She stated that the IRRS had performed over 952 examinations of landmine victims, most of whom were Bosnian. While IRRS fits prostheses, provides physical and occupational therapy, studies victims in a kinesiology lab and provides psychologists for victims, Burger continued to stress the need for comprehensive rehabilitation. She found that 75 percent of amputees do not think their prosthesis fits well, and 90 percent cannot afford to fix their prosthesis. Therefore, Burger believes that there is a great need for more prosthetics and more thoroughly trained prosthetists.

Participants, including Sarah Warren and Barbara Stuart of VVAF, listen attentively as governments, NGOs and MACs present their perspectives during the first day of the workshop. C/o MAIC

NGOs including Handicap International (HI), Handicap International-Belgrade (HI-B), the Center for International Rehabilitation (CIR), Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) and Landmine Survivors Network (LSN), among others, also presented summaries of both their progress and gaps to the group. For instance, Ms. Sarah Warren of VVAF discussed a new program in Kosovo entitled Sports for Life: Rehabilitation, Rights, Reconciliation. She stated, “Sports can be a powerful vehicle for change and an entry point into work on a variety of issues from accessibility to education to employment. Sports promote individual health and self-confidence, while at the same time encouraging people to come together and share ideas and experiences....Sports also provide a wonderful opportunity to bring visibility to people with disabilities in a strong and positive way.” The program will use sports to bring together the disabled and the non-disabled as well as people from different ethnic groups and will also include disability awareness training to over 27,000 secondary school students.

Day 2: Donors and Recommendations

Donor presentations began the second day of the conference. Ms. Eva Veble of the ITF presented an overview of donor support to MVA programs through the ITF. Veble discussed the trend of donors earmarking funds for tasks other than victim assistance. For example, of the 24 donor countries, only 11 specified funds for MVA. Therefore, Veble concluded that higher coordination of activities in the region is needed and that funding needs to be increased in the field of victim assistance. Mr. Pat Patierno of the Department of State’s Humanitarian Demining Program (PM/HDP) continued the donors’ perspective with a presentation on U.S. assistance to MVA programs in the region. U.S. funds go towards a wide variety of programs including training workers, obtaining prosthetics, and providing rehabilitation, equipment, wheelchairs, physiotherapy equipment and holidays for children. Finally, he noted that the U.S. government plans on donating $650,000 (U.S.) to VVAF’s Sports for Life Program.

After all donors presented, participants were broken into two brainstorming groups to discuss regional coordination. After a thorough discussion, an initial set of recommendations was drafted. The recommendations were divided into five sections, including comprehensive centers, training and education, long-term assistance, improved coordination and victims assisted. Participants called for the development of comprehensive centers covering all aspects of physical, social, psychosocial and economic rehabilitation, as well as comprehensive prosthetic centers. The participants also noted that better coordination is needed among orthopedic surgeons. Education became another important theme in the breakout sessions. Participants stated that people in the field need to be educated according to international standards, especially prosthetists. It was also proposed that ITF create a separate educational fund. Long-term assistance, the participants concluded, was also an essential part of MVA in the region, especially capacity building for social and mental issues. Eliminating discrimination is key to accomplishing this; participants urged all groups to assist in the full reintegration of victims back into society. To accomplish this, governments must offer economic opportunities to the disabled. Improving coordination was also thoroughly discussed. Participants agreed that improvements must be made in coordination among governmental agencies and NGOs. Also, national policies need to be created that are appropriate for local needs; thus, by developing a national strategic plan first, regional coordination will follow. Finally, participants discussed assisting victims. High quality prosthetics, they concluded, should be provided to all victims, rather than high cost prosthetics to only a few. Also, participants addressed the fact that landmine injuries other than amputations need to be treated.

Conclusion

By the conclusion of the DSS workshop, the participants made a great deal of progress. Donor, NGO and country status reports illustrated the gaps in funding and the need for better coordination. Then, through the brainstorming sessions, a set of recommendations was drafted in the hopes of improving the current situation for mine victims throughout southeast Europe. Indeed, all participants agreed to amend the recommendations through e-mail in the days following the workshop. These final recommendations will be included in the workshop proceedings, which will be distributed in the upcoming months by the ITF.

Contact Information

Sarah B. Taylor, MAIC
E-mail: taylo2sb@jmu.edu

 

 
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