More often than not, refugees are fleeing armed conflict. Sadly, many have already suffered injuries before managing to escape. One study indicates that roughly 80,000 Syrians require prosthetic fittings to replace limbs lost to war. The majority of amputees in the Western world are elderly, and are the result of circulation problems (such as those brought on by diabetes). In the developing world, amputations are more often the result of wars and accidents, and therefore principally affect a younger population. Due to wear and tear, and changes in the body, prosthetics need to be replaced every five or so years; so commonly used models are financially inaccessible to the majority of those who need prosthetics.
Unsurprisingly, the prosthetics available in the Western world contribute towards a much higher level of mobility for the beneficiaries than those available in the developing world. The paradox is that young, fit individuals in the developing world are being unnecessarily deprived of a good quality of life. When high-activity prosthetics are available, the cost is extremely high.
IRT is aiming to change this dire situation. Accordingly, it has partnered with an established inventor, Ed Pennington-Ridge, to run a trial project in Tanzania to test the viability of high-mobility/low-cost prosthetic legs. Tanzania has been chosen for this project for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, it boasts the Tanzania Training Centre for Orthopaedic Technologists (TATCOT). This will provide an excellent base for the trial, housing both a high degree of professional expertise, along with all of the necessary clinical equipment.
Secondly, two factors have driven up the demand for prosthetic legs in Tanzania. It is estimated that the introduction of motorcycles has led to some fifty more leg amputations being performed per year. Perhaps even more horrific is the unchecked epidemic of mutilations of albinos. The traditional superstition, perpetuated by witchdoctors, is that the possession of albino body parts will bring wealth and good fortune. In a country where per capita income is $442 a year, the limb of a person with albinism can fetch almost anywhere from $500 to $2,000.
Thirdly, Tanzania has taken in more refugees from Burundi than any other African country since the outbreak of election-related violence there in 2015. As recently as January 2017, refugee arrivals were numbering around 600 per day. There is therefore the potential to introduce the pilot project to the in-country refugee population as a first step towards wider expansion.