Thursday, April 13, 2017

Boko Haram survivor to provide prosthetics for victims in Nigeria

When 29-year-old Member Feese woke up in a London hospital one month after a Boko Haram bomb attack in Nigeria's capital Abuja blew off her left leg, she knew it was a blessing to be alive.

Feese's family flew her to Britain days after the August 2011 bombing. There the postgraduate student received care over a six-month period, and was fitted with a prosthetic limb.

Inspired by the care she was lucky enough to receive, Feese set up Team Member, an advocacy group to aid victims of bombings in Abuja, which has been hit by several blasts bearing the hallmarks of the jihadist group Boko Haram since 2010.

"I was fortunate because of the network I had ... to fly out of Nigeria. But there are many who are not fortunate enough," Feese told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in her home in Abuja.

"Some of the victims are just hawkers and mechanics. They just go to the National Hospital and they can barely afford their hospital bills," she added. "How do they start their lives back? How do they get money to start their businesses again?"

Every time a bomb strikes Abuja, Feese, her parents and volunteers race to hospitals to offer victims food, arrange counseling and start raising money for care and surgeries.

Few Nigerians have health insurance, leaving many patients trapped in hospital by their debts, responsible for feeding themselves and clinging to the hope their bills will be waived by hospital directors or paid off by well-wishers.

"Some of the victims have no family in Abuja, so we support them," Feese said. "We take food, milk, sugar, toiletries ... then we get their contact details and keep in touch with them."

Dozens of bomb blast victims in Abuja have benefited from the group's support, including a man who needed several surgeries to remove a nail lodged in his head, Feese said.

Yet she is concerned about those who need prosthetic limbs, and said Team Member is raising money in the hopes of opening a rehabilitation center for bombing victims in Abuja.

"We've not identified any hospital that specializes in advanced prosthetic limbs ... the technology is not advanced.

"Not everybody can afford to go to the United Kingdom or South Africa. We want to give Nigerians a chance."

The 2011 attack which injured Feese struck the U.N headquarters in the capital Abuja, killing at least 24 people.

While the last bombing to hit Abuja was in late 2015, Boko Haram has continued to target markets, bus stations, places of worship villages in Borno state during its eight-year insurgency to carve out an Islamist state in the northeast of the country.

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