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3D printing technology helps Hakim walk

Humanity & Inclusion is using telemedicine and 3D printing to provide physical rehabilitation services for refugees in Uganda. This innovative technology is helping to improve mobility and restore hope!

When a member of Humanity & Inclusion’s psychosocial support team first met Hakim, he had lost all hope. As a teenager in South Sudan, Hakim had a severe case of malaria and experienced a stroke that left him unable to use the limbs on the right side of his body.

“I do not think this life is worth living,” Hakim said at the time. “With these impairments, I cannot take care of myself. I cannot bathe. I cannot participate in meetings. I cannot visit friends. I would be better off dead.”

Today, Hakim, who is in his 30s, lives in the Omugo refugee settlement in northern Uganda where accessing basic services and information can be especially difficult for people with disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion has been working in the area since 2017, providing different kinds of support to improve quality of life for the most vulnerable refugees.

Months of hard work

In the refugee settlement, Hakim and his family were connected with a physical therapist and a psychosocial worker from Humanity & Inclusion. Together, they have worked on physical exercises to help improve his mobility and independence, and both Hakim and his caretakers received counseling to relieve the stress and anxiety felt by the whole family. 

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Four months of hard work saw a steady improvement in Hakim’s ability to move around his home and less need for physical support from others. However, he was still unable to walk more than a few steps and remained confined to his home. 

To progress further, Hakim needed a custom-fit brace that would provide support for his lower leg. Acquiring one would usually require a long and expensive journey to a rehabilitation center in the capital city, but Humanity & Inclusion is using the latest technology to provide these medical opportunities to people living in impoverished, remote places.

A high-tech solution

Hakim’s leg was scanned not far from his home using a portable kit comprised of a tablet computer and a structure sensor. The 3D scan was remotely modified by an expert to generate a computerized model of his made-to-measure splint. The splint was then produced by Humanity & Inclusion’s 3D printers in the nearest small town and brought back to Hakim by his physical therapist.

My life has greatly changed ever since Humanity & Inclusion started working with me,” says Hakim. ‘“The orthosis has greatly improved my walking … I never imagined I would be able to walk for more than a mile! I can go to the hospital on my own, I participate in community meetings and my voice is heard!” 

Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 in 2020, Humanity & Inclusion’s 3D rehabilitation team has reached more than 82 people like Hakim in Uganda’s refugee settlements. Each has their own story of restored independence and renewed hope. 

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Image: A man named Hakim sits in a chair while he is fitted for a 3D-printed splint at a rehabilitation center in a refugee camp in Uganda. Copyright: HI, 2020