By Irene Abalo Otto | Daily Monitor | Uganda – His leg was blown off by a landmine at age 21. Today, Mr Simon Opige, 38, has 16 children to care for through tilling land for sustenance. It is a heart-rending experience that makes anyone shudder at the imagination of going through it.
Mr Opige is just one of the estimated 12,000 victims of exploding landmines and abandoned bombs during the two-decade Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency.
Mr Opige braved the insecurity to do farming during the insurgency which displaced about 1.7 million people from their homes in northern Uganda to Internally Displaced Persons camps by 2000.
Guns continued to rage villages near the camp in Alero Sub-county in present day Nwoya District.
“It was from that garden behind that big tree where we had a garden. They [LRA rebels] had cooked in the compound and passed though the garden. We did not know that they had planted land mines in the garden,” Mr Opige recounts.
He adds: “It happened at 9am on September 9, 2003. I did know see it [landmine]. I became unconscious. I only woke up to find myself at St Mary’s Hospital Lacor. They told me that I had been hit by a landmine. I stayed at the hospital for one year and three months. The operations were not well done. At times they sent me back for another procedure.”
Mr Opige remembers his left leg was buried near his home in Alero. He says the wounded part towards his thigh was rotting.
“Some of the fragments were in my lower abdomen. They were removed but the splinters in the left side of my head have not been removed to date,” he said.
Mr Opige returned to his village about 17 years ago. However his physical rehabilitation has been a long painful journey like most survivors.
Since his only means of livelihood to feed his family is farming, Opige works twice as hard to fend for his children. Whereas he has gone back to his ancestral land to reconstruct his shattered life, he has had the trouble of changing his artificial limb since it was first fitted about 15 years ago. As his body grows, the stump can no longer fit in the artificial limb.
“The only assistance I got was from AVSI in terms of entrepreneurship is training. They gave me cooking oil, beans, and maize. And they have been supporting me to get artificial limbs since 2005. I have changed my limbs 10 times but I have not paid a single penny,” he says.