June 3 is World Clubfoot Day, commemorating the birthday of Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, who developed the widely used method for treating clubfoot in young children.
This year, Humanity & Inclusion's Sri Lankan team participated in a Clubfoot Day event at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, emphasizing 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.
As part of the event, the team organized a variety of activities including a drawing contest, and a photo booth for health professionals, children, and their parents.
Awareness, early treatment crucial
Clubfoot is a malformation that appears at birth and occurs in one or both feet. Leaving an affected foot untreated could result in serious consequences for the child. Over time, the disability can prevent a child from comfortably wearing shoes, risking injury, and walking long distances can be particularly challenging. Children may also find themselves excluded from activities or facing other forms of discrimination.
All children should be able to access health care, education, and other services that will enable them to reach their full physical, intellectual, and social potential. Between 2017 and 2022, Humanity & Inclusion provided services to 1,778 children with clubfoot and trained 180 clinic providers on clubfoot management across Sri Lanka. Frontline health workers are essential in ensuring babies born with clubfoot access health care. It is only through their support and guidance that teams can ensure all children born with clubfoot receive treatment and live active, healthy lives.
Success stories: Yenuli and Zayan
Yenuli, pictured left, was born with clubfoot. Humanity & Inclusion's team and hospital staff encouraged her parents, who have regularly brought their daughter to the clinic for treatment over the past two years. With her braces on, Yenuli remained determined. She walks on her own now, and performs activities like other children her age. She still wears her braces at night. Yenuli enjoys running, dancing, drawing, and playing outside with her friends.
Zayan, right, was referred to the Orthopedic Clinic at Teach Hospital Jaffna after being diagnosed with clubfoot two years ago. His parents had never heard of the disability and were worried for his future. Though the clinic is more than 100 miles from their home, they pursued treatment for their son. Their hope was renewed as his foot changed with each casting. Zayan has completed six casting sessions and wears a brace day and night. He's an active child, who loves running through the house.
"Zayan can become anyone he wishes; his future is up to him,'' says Fanusija, his mother. “We will support him throughout every step of his dream and provide him with a quality education."
These Humanity & Inclusion's activities are possible with support from Miracle Feet through the project: "Towards universal access to clubfoot management." Humanity & Inclusion's teams implements the program at clubfoot clinics in Colombo, Kandy, Batticola and Jaffna districts.
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.
Image: An adult's hands hold the out-turned feet of a small child in Cambodia who has clubfoot. Copyright: Lucas Veuve/HI
As part of its response to the COVID-19 crisis in Sri Lanka, Humanity & Inclusion has provided financial assistance to some of the country’s most vulnerable families, allowing them to meet their basic needs such as buying food.
Sri Lanka has been seriously affected by COVID-19 and the lockdown imposed by the authorities to limit the spread of the virus. This has severely disrupted the livelihoods of many households with disastrous consequences for the poorest families, including women with disabilities, who already live in precarious conditions.
We’ve provided financial support to more than 1,000 vulnerable families. Logini Niksankumar, 36, was one of the women assisted financially by Humanity & Inclusion. Logini lives in Jaffna with her husband and two children. Her arm was injured in a bomb attack in 1995 during the country’s civil war. The wound was not properly treated and she had to have part of her arm amputated. The lockdown had a serious impact on her business, and she found Humanity & Inclusion’s support extremely helpful.
“It has been a tough few months and Humanity & Inclusion’s assistance was a big help,” says Logini. “One of the things we could buy was food.”
Working in partnership with local Sri Lankan organizations, Humanity & Inclusion’s team supported a project in northern Sri Lanka that aims to help the most vulnerable people, including women with disabilities, meet their basic needs, such as buying food and paying the rent.
Focus on the most vulnerable
As COVID-19 takes aim at our planet's most vulnerable neighbors, Humanity & Inclusion donors ensure that people with disabilities, people with injuries from conflict, children, women, and especially older people have the information--and even the soap--they need to stay healthy. Learn more about Humanity & Inclusion's vast COVID-19 response.
For farmers living in small villages in Sri Lanka, income from milk sales alone isn't always enough to get by. Add a cow to milk, peanuts to grow, and a local store to run and it may seem impossible.
For people with disabilities and vulnerable individuals, the challenge is greater. People with disabilities are struggle to find decent work due to discrimination. Humanity & Inclusion’s team is working hard to change this.
In collaboration with a local partner, Humanity & Inclusion’s team in Sri Lanka runs an economic inclusion project that aims to ensure that everyone benefits from economic growth. We promote the inclusion of vulnerable individuals in economic activities and coordinate training sessions for employers who are encouraged to take into account the most vulnerable individuals when hiring.
As a result, nearly one hundred women have been hired by companies including Brandix, the country’s largest exporter of apparel. We educated 30 civil society organizations on the struggles faced by people with disabilities and showed them how they can support the growth of employment opportunities for these individuals.
Building on this project, which is funded by the European Union, Humanity & Inclusion produced a publication on the inclusive local economy, including best practices, and recommendations for local authorities and NGOs. For more information, read the development toolkit.
Humanity & Inclusion in Sri Lanka
Since 2004, Humanity & Inclusion has been providing assistance to victims of armed conflict, promoting social inclusion, and developing partnerships at all levels to implement and support national disability policies in the country. Learn more about our work in Sri Lanka.
The civil war that raged in Sri Lanka for more than 20 years resulted in the deaths of more than 70,000 people and the disappearance of thousands more. Today, nine years after the end of the conflict, a process of national reconciliation is under way in the country. Humanity & Inclusion is working to ensure that women, especially women with disabilities, are involved in the country’s reconciliation process.
Thanks to support from the US Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, our teams identified self-help groups, local women's organizations, and community leaders in the northern regions of Kilinochchi and Kandy. From 2015-2017, HI staff provided them with information on inclusion and disability issues to help ensure that they represent their members, as well as influence decisions made as part of the reconciliation process.
The goal is to make their daily activities (micro-credit and self-help groups) more inclusive of people with disabilities, especially women, and to ensure that those individuals take part in national round-table discussions with local authorities responsible for this process. The organizations our teams identified have also made recommendations on ensuring that public policies take greater account of the needs of women, especially those with disabilities.
A huge thanks to the US Department of State for funding this important work.
Our work in Sri Lanka
Working in Sri Lanka since 2004, our teams provide assistance to victims of armed conflict, promote social inclusion, and help develop partnerships at all levels to implement and support national disability policies. Learn more about our work in Sri Lanka.
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In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, Handicap International worked to help vulnerable Indonesians, Sri Lankans and Indians affected by the large-scale disaster. Ten years later, the organization continues its work there, and has considerably developed its disaster risk management experience.Read more