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Niger: limb-fitting centre renovated for conflict victims and other disabled people

12-09-2012 News Release 12/183

Niamey (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Nigerian authorities inaugurated a refurbished centre for prosthetic limbs in the National Hospital of Niamey today. The new facilities, which underwent several months of renovation, take the place of an existing prosthetic workshop that had become too outmoded to be serviceable.

"Throughout the country, needs are enormous," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the head of the ICRC delegation for Niger and Mali. "One of the reasons for opening this centre is to fit victims of the last conflict in northern Niger, especially those injured by mines, with orthopaedic appliances. Eventually, the centre will benefit thousands of patients in Niger and also in neighbouring countries such as Mali."

According to the World Health Organization, at any given time about 1.5 per cent of the population in developing countries could benefit from rehabilitation, and about 0.5 per cent need prostheses or orthotics and related services. For Niger, then, that would mean that rehabilitation needs to be available for approximately 240,000 people, some 80,000 of whom also require devices. However, limb-fitting and physical rehabilitation facilities in the country have been closing their doors one after the other. Those that still exist are no longer properly functioning owing to a lack of supplies and human resources and to their use of technology ill-suited to the context.

The renovated centre has a machine room, an assembly room, a stock room and an area for physical rehabilitation activities. A dormitory is in the process of being rebuilt. The facilities will make it possible to provide suitable rehabilitation services and to boost local expertise in the manufacture of artificial limbs and other mobility devices. Under a cooperation agreement between the National Hospital of Niamey and the ICRC signed in January, the ICRC has undertaken to provide the centre for five years (2012-2016) with the support it needs to become self-reliant and to train its staff.

"It is essential to expand the capabilities of Niger's human resources in the technology used to produce prosthetic limbs and other appliances," said Mr Marti. Currently, there are only three skilled technicians (category II) in the country working to meet the needs of an estimated 24,000 patients per year.

Between March and April of this year, while the renovation was under way, the ICRC provided the technicians and their assistants with one month of refresher training in polypropylene technology at the National School for Medical Assistants in Lomé, Togo. Through its Special Fund for the Disabled, the ICRC also sponsors three-week specialized courses offered by the National School. Furthermore, the ICRC has arranged for one person this year and for two people next year to take part in a more formal training programme leading to a diploma, and it also plans to provide training in management and administration.

For further information, please contact:
Germain Mwehu, ICRC Niamey, tel: +227 97 45 43 82 or +223 76996375