For the time being, I am working a bumpy 30 minute drive deep into the heart of Jack Shanty Compound, Lusaka, Zambia. I am working with a passionate group of 10 staff/volunteers who make up ZAFLAS (Zambia Foundation for Landmine Survivors). ZAFLAS works from a one room office – no photocopier, ink cartridges and hardly any budget to speak of but they have identified ERW (unexploded remnants of war), landmines and landmine victims in the some of the most remote areas in the Southern Province. ZAFLAS is fighting to help survivors secure the services they need to help them reclaim their lives and fully participate in their communities.
ZAFLAS was founded during the 2008 during the Raising the Voice Cluster Munitions Treaty Training in Livingstone by Mr. Yona Phiri, a landmine survivor himself, and 28 other people with disabilities and advocates. Mr. Phiri walked the same route along the railroad tracks to attend school every day. One day he took a short cut and suddenly he was thrown into the air with a deafening explosion. He laid there unconscious and was carried out by paramilitary and school teachers. When he arrived at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka he was told that his right leg had been blown off and he fell into a three week coma. As a survivor of an ERW in one of the most contaminated continents in the world he wants to see the government take ownership of their survivor population because the majority of victims do not receive assistance. They are isolated and stigmatized.
Zambia has signed the treaty to ban landmine and some reports suggest that Zambia is now landmine free, which gives the perception that the work is over. However, the real work in supporting the victims of landmines/ERW is just beginning. ZAFLAS members traveled to the some of the most remote villages (of approximately fifty families in each village) in the Southern Province and have identified 57 landmine/ERW survivors and 44 people with other disabilities who require assistance to support their families and become contributing members of their communities. ZAFLAS’ goal is to first raise the funds to be able to bring the victims to Lusaka so that they can get fitted with prosthesis. ZAFLAS aims to also host an event for local disability organizations and stakeholders to be able to map the services for people with disabilities and inform decision makers of the degree of the landmine/ERW problem in Zambia.