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A Center for Spinal Cord Injuries in Bam

By Paul Sanford

On Boxing Day 2003, a massive earthquake struck Bam at 5.26 in the morning.  About 50,000 people were killed, and many thousands injured.  The most famous city walls in the world, the Bam citadel or Arg, 2500 years old, were very badly damaged.

Three years later, there is so much evidence of what happened in those few seconds.  Some buildings are left as they stood on that morning, collapsed and useless.  Others are being slowly repaired.  All around there are containers and portable buildings, which people are living in and trying to continue life from.  The tents and the immediate aid have disappeared but long term help has been slow to materialise.  There are some new projects being built by outside agencies.   Some new buildings have been constructed, and some are awaiting completion.  The population of the city has increased massively as many people have moved to get work here, putting further strain on a weakened infrastructure.  The citadel is being slowly rebuilt with international help, but many peoples lives were wrecked on that day, with permanent injuries.

Mr Ardeshir Naghshineh and his company, the Targetfollow Group, in a joint project with Operation Mercy, a Swedish charity organisation are constructing a centre and adjoining business unit and an internet café to help people with spinal cord injuries to lead a more normal life and help them raise money for the centre. The Popli Khalatbari Charitable Foundation is assisting with this project.

Reza Memary is 38 years old and says that he was sleeping when the earthquake hit and a steel roof beam fell on his back.  It broke his spine and severed his spinal cord.  He had spine surgery and had a platinum rod inserted in his back. He is paralysed from the waist down.

Reza Memary

“I lost my wife, child, mother, father, brother and two sisters with their children. This was apart from the other relatives that I lost in the earthquake”, he says.

He was a baker before the earthquake, but now he is jobless and has no source of income.  Reza lives with his younger sister now and he wishes he could walk and go to work again.

He has had bedsores and sores on his heels for the past 25 months and wasn’t able to attend Operation Mercy classes.  He says that he needs special medicine for his bedsores and also a water heater for the shower.

Hassan Afsari

Hassan Afsari is from Yegan Village close to Bam.  He is 22 but he is now the oldest male member of the family.  He lives with his mother but now comes to the center.  His mother is still living among the rubble of their old house. He was helping his family after the earthquake and he was on his bike bringing them tents and food.  Then he had an accident and his back was broken and his spinal cord was severed.  The hospital authorities would not operate on him for free because they said that he was not injured in the earthquake.

Hassan Afsari

His uncle, and two daughters-in-law died in the earthquake, and he lost so many other relatives. His father died before the earthquake and he doesn’t have any source of income.  Hassan attended the Operation Mercy glim (carpet - kilim) weaving classes but he couldn’t continue because of his bed sores.

People who were severely injured in the earthquake not only lost their homes and loved ones but are now facing the future with permanent disabilities, making it difficult to find a livelihood.  The Imam Reza Spinal Cord Injury Centre caters to more than 300 patients.  Most are outpatients who visit the centre for physiotherapy and other help as needed.  Operation Mercy is also working with the 20 plus inpatients living at the centre.  They are coordinating training projects in sewing, computer skills and handicrafts. English classes are also offered to the inpatients and their family members.

Together with the new building the Spinal Cord Injury Centre is providing many with hope, skills training and a means of supporting themselves in the future.

For more details please see PKCF at and Operation Mercy at


... Payvand News - 2/6/07 ... --

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