Humanity & Inclusion is marking World Clubfoot Day on June 3 by highlighting the importance of early treatment. Providing care for clubfoot in the weeks immediately after a child’s birth can prevent them from growing up with a disability.
Clubfoot is the malformation of one or both feet and is visible at birth. If left untreated the foot never regains its normal position, with serious consequences for the child. They can never wear shoes, risk injury, and find it difficult to walk, especially over long distances. Because the child cannot take part in activities with other children, they also risk being excluded and stigmatized.
“We can prevent this bleak outcome," says Uta Prehl, one of Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation specialists. “But we must detect this malformation as soon as possible after birth. It’s one of the keys to successful treatment. The child can then be treated effectively, and the malformation corrected, and within months they can walk normally. Social workers also play an important role in the care cycle by working with parents to ensure they continue the treatment. If children are not followed up correctly and regularly, the malformation may not be properly corrected. So, it’s crucial to give caregivers as much information as possible.”
Treatment involves placing a cast—which is replaced every week for six weeks—on the child’s leg to steadily correct the foot. The tendons are sometimes operated on before the final cast. Humanity & Inclusion’s partner organizations then fit the child with an orthopedic brace made of a bar connecting two small shoes, which is worn for the first four months and regularly adjusted to appropriately correct the malformation. The child’s feet are checked until they are able to walk, and an X-ray is performed to check healing. The brace and shoes are normally removed between the ages of 3 and 4. The child continues to attend regularly follow-up consultations until they stop growing to prevent the malformation from returning.
For several years, Humanity & Inclusion has trained physical therapists in a number of countries to promote the early detection and appropriate care management of clubfoot. Teams continue to run these projects today, particularly in Burkina Faso and Sri Lanka, so children born with these malformations grow up without disabilities.