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Treating Clubfoot Changes Lives 

Treating Clubfoot
Clubfoot is a congenital condition found in babies, where one or both feet turn inwards, making it difficult to walk if left untreated. In economically thriving countries, clubfoot is an easily treatable condition, but the same is not true in developing nations where it can impact and determine a child’s entire life. On the bright side, some organizations are treating clubfoot and making a difference.

About Clubfoot

Roughly 200,000 babies are born with clubfoot every year, with only 20% being in high-income countries where treatment commences quickly after birth. Article 26 in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that all people with physical conditions should be able to attend rehabilitation centers for treatment. However, many citizens in low-income nations do not get this opportunity. Sadly, numerous cases are neglected and turn into debilitating life-long conditions.

When treating clubfoot, surgery is often unnecessary. Doctors can straighten the foot using the Ponseti Method, a treatment that works in roughly 95% of instances. It incorporates massage of the affected foot and placement in a plaster cast, allowing the muscles to loosen so the bones can grow properly. Once the position is assumed, children will wear tailored boots for five years to keep their feet in place. It is the most favored method of clubfoot treatment, with proven success for more than 50 years. Though the procedure is uncomplicated, the lack of health care centers is often an obstacle for those seeking treatment in Africa. For this reason, many cases of clubfoot remain undiagnosed.

Clubfoot Affects Mental Health

People with untreated clubfoot bear weight unevenly as they begin walking, developing wounds on the weight-bearing side. Furthermore, uneven weight-bearing often means shoes wear down more quickly.

However, those with clubfoot in the developing world do not just suffer from physical challenges. Often due to archaic cultural mentalities, those bearing a disability may endure stigmatization. Many citizens in remote parts of Africa believe spirits cause disabilities as a punishment for alleged misconduct. When these children grow into disabled adults, society shuns and neglects them, making it almost impossible to find employment or form relationships. Those who have become immobile do not have much independence. They often rely on family members who may hold grudges for their lack of participation in housework. Mothers can often face blame for their child’s disability, sometimes leading to marriage breakdown and divorce. This can cause financial insecurity for many women who rely on their husband’s wages to feed their children.

It is due to the work of the following charities that children born with clubfoot or who have developed “neglected clubfoot” as a result of lack of treatment in impoverished countries can access the medical care available and begin to look forward to better living conditions in the future.

Hope Walks

Hope Walks is a Christian charity dealing with clubfoot treatment. It also educates parents and trains health care professionals to deliver the best care possible to patients. Its mission is to remove the burdens plaguing those affected by clubfoot and their families and give people hope as they look toward the future. Since commencing its clubfoot program in 2006, the charity has changed the lives of 150,000 children in 15 countries suffering from the condition.

The program encourages donors to commit to monthly amounts by joining the Clubfoot Crew. Each month, donors receive emails sharing inspirational stories of children now walking unaided following treatment, so they can see exactly where their donations go. Small donations to the nonprofit have life-changing impacts. Just $15 a month can provide a child with a brace that they will use until they are 5 years old. A monthly donation of $40 for one year provides a child with all hospital appointments and necessary treatment. As the charity’s president Scott Reichenbach explains, donations are “the difference between a life of begging on the streets and a life of hope.”

MiracleFeet

Founded in 2010, MiracleFeet brings the knowledge and quality of care present in high-income countries to developing nations. Now functioning in 36 countries and spanning four continents, MiracleFeet has provided more than 70,000 children with the help necessary to combat clubfoot. Last year, the charity helped 12,000 people, more people in one year than ever before. This was a remarkable achievement considering the COVID-19 pandemic erased four years of progress in alleviating global poverty.

MiracleFeet is part of the Global Clubfoot Initiative, a partnership dedicated to treating clubfoot and eradicating the condition through effective treatment plans by 2030. The scheme raises awareness of clubfoot, ensures communities understand it is a curable disability and provides health care workers with training to guarantee all children receive a diagnosis.

Looking Forward

Organizations like Hope Walks and MiracleFeet are making a significant impact in treating clubfoot and improving the lives of affected children. Through ongoing initiatives and partnerships, these organizations provide accessible and effective treatment, educate parents and health care professionals and combat the stigma associated with disabilities. These efforts offer hope to children and families, ensuring a brighter future and the opportunity for better living conditions.

– Yasmin Hailes
Photo: Flickr