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Volunteers Still Treating Haiti Earthquake Victims

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By Sabri Ben-Achour

It's been eight months since Haiti was hit by an earthquake that killed as many as 300,000 people, according to the UN mission chief there. The relief effort continues, and volunteers from Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. have been helping survivors with one of many lingering challenges: coping with lost limbs.

At the Hanger Orthotic and Prosthetic Clinic in northwest D.C., Anna Avakian walks past piles of plastic and metal limbs, grinding machines, technicians sculpting knees and legs out of plaster.

"Basically the same equipment you see here, we had in haiti," Avakian says.

Avakian is a prosthetist with Hanger prosthetics, she spent three and a half months in Haiti fitting people who'd lost their limbs - some from the earthquake, many from before the quake.

"We were seeing all sorts of levels of amputation - from partial feet to very short above knee even where the leg is all the way gone to the hip," she says.

Estimates vary widely as to the total number of amputees in Haiti. The Hanger volunteer clinic where Avakian worked has so far treated more than 600 people. She says prosthetic care is usually a long term proposition, and there's still a need for volunteers and prosthetists to help with the steady stream of people looking for new limbs.

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