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Child amputees of Türkiye earthquakes get ‘iron man’ hands

A Turkish charity is producing customised prosthetics for children who lost their limbs in last month’s quakes in Türkiye in the colours of their favourite cartoon characters.

“Children do not think like you and I do. What’s more important for their mental health is the ability to show off their hand to their peers, and to be accepted among them,” Serdar Okumus, founder of Robotel Türkiye Foundation, told Anadolu Agency over the phone on Friday.

“To be able to say ‘I have the hand of iron man’ gives confidence to a child and it also attracts positive reactions from other kids too,” he said.

Each prosthetic hand is designed digitally, tweaks for grasping movement are made and the child’s favourite characters or the colours of the team they support are put on it.

“Then the digital file is sent for 3D printing, which takes about 18 hours,” he said.

The foundation has provided over 1,000 mechanical 3D-printed hands to more than 400 children so far.

“The reason for why those numbers do not add up is, when children develop to a certain age, new mechanical hands have to be made,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we have heard many reports of amputation from the disaster area. While the numbers are not final, it is clear that they are high,” said Okumus, who is currently visiting the quake-hit areas.

“At this moment, it is hard to get credible information from the area. We have heard that at least 1,000 amputations are required,” he added.

READ MORE: Volunteers rescue over 1,500 animals from quake rubble in Türkiye

Environmentally friendly bioplastics

Okumus said after the parts for the hand are individually printed, they are assembled and the child tries them on to make sure it fits and works.

“If a revision is needed, it is done and the hand is re-printed. The child’s bodily development is followed for six months to a year and when the child outgrows the hand, a new hand is printed,” he said.

He said the hands are made from environmentally friendly bioplastics from corncobs.

“The hand is activated through the movement of the elbow. While it can only perform a basic grasp, it provides a boost in confidence and it is beneficial in brain development too,” he said.

Okumus said the organization provides prosthetic hands to children free of cost.

“While the hand can be manufactured for a relatively cheap cost, there is a lot of labour involved and we are looking for sponsors so we can continue doing what we do for free,” he said, adding that donations can be made through their website

Volunteers can also register themselves on the website.

Twin earthquakes that jolted southern Türkiye and Syria on February 6 have left more than 50,000 people dead.

“The people in the region and local health authorities need to hear us and direct our efforts to the people in need,” Okumus said.

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