Landmine blast survivors centre opens in Amman

Sir Bobby Charlton Centre

Children enjoying art therapy in front of a portrait of Sir Bobby.

DUBAI 26 August 2017: Sir Bobby Charlton Centre for landmine blast survivors has opened in Amman, Jordan.

To celebrate the football legend’s 80th birthday, Sir Bobby’s charity, Find A Better Way, launched the first of many centres around the world to help landmine blast survivors.

The centre will help landmine blast survivors who have fled the civil wars in Syria, Iraq, and other areas of conflict. According to Jordanian government figures, an estimated 1.4 million Syrian refugees have entered the Middle Eastern kingdom since fighting began in 2011. Many of these are facing additional severe challenges because of injuries from landmines and other explosive devices.

The Sir Bobby Charlton Centre will be a joint venture between Sir Bobby’s UK-based landmine charity Find A Better Way, the Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, a US-based non-profit organisation with 38 years of experience helping people with disabilities and victims of conflict, and Asia Development Training (ADT), a Jordanian-based charity that provides rehabilitation to survivors of conflict. By supporting partners with specialist local knowledge, the Sir Bobby Charlton Centre will play an important role in supporting and coordinating physical and mental rehabilitation for civilian victims of the Syrian conflict.

The challenges confronting Syrian refugees, especially those who have lost a limb to a landmine blast, are vast and complex. These problems are exacerbated by the young age of a disproportionate number of refugees: approximately half are under the age of 18 and roughly 40% are under the age of 12.

In addition to the challenges of recovering from physical injuries, many of these children are at risk of developing significant mental health issues brought on by frequent exposure to trauma.

In a Migration Policy Institute survey of Syrian refugee youth, it was reported that 79% had experienced a death in the family. 60% saw someone get kicked, shot at or physically hurt, and 30% had themselves been kicked, shot at, or physically hurt. 45% displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (ten times the prevalence among children around the world) and 44% reported symptoms of depression.

Despite these high rates of physical and mental trauma, there is only limited access to experienced providers who are able to treat refugees effectively. Out of desperation, as Jordanian local facilities have struggled to cope with the flood of refugees, dozens of small, Syrian-community sponsored rehabilitation facilities have emerged around the country. Although playing a vitally important role in caring for refugees, many of these facilities have been forced to close owing to inadequate funding for equipment, medication, medical supplies or for lack of rehabilitation expertise. As the war has dragged on the needs have grown and the challenges have grown more complex.

The Sir Bobby Charlton Centre in Amman has been designed to support Syrian refugees directly and to act as a support for the other community-run centres across Jordan. It will provide rehabilitation services to hundreds of Syrian war wounded each year, especially children, and will also offer “Trainer of Trainer” programmes in several rehabilitation fields including physical therapy, child trauma, peer support and advance training in prosthetic/orthotic care and other mobility aides. Local and international subject matter experts will provide academic and “hands on practical training” in the fields of physical and psychological rehabilitation.

The launch of the first Sir Bobby Charlton Centre takes place less than two months before Sir Bobby’s 80th birthday on 11 October, and Find A Better Way will be opening additional centres around the world in the next twelve months as part of the continued celebrations. Each centre will be located in an area struggling with the devastating effects of landmines and other explosive remnants of war, and in partnership with local charities who will administer the centres and ensure that it is meeting the needs of the local community. Additional Sir Bobby Charlton Centres are currently planned to open in Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and rural Cambodia.

Sir Bobby Charlton commented: “The stories of landmine blast survivors in Jordan, especially those who are children, are incredibly moving. I’m thrilled that Find A Better Way is opening this centre and that it is the first of many planned to open around the world. But most of all I am extremely honoured that these centres will be named after me. It is a wonderful early 80th birthday present.”

By Rajive Siingh