This week, the Sierra Leone National Clubfoot Programme (SLNCP), celebrated World Clubfoot Day. Clubfoot is a deformity in which a child’s foot is turned inward, often so severely that they struggle to walk. The SLNCP, supported by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Government of the Isle of Man, KSLP and Mobility Outreach International, provide free treatment to children in Sierra Leone born with Clubfoot. They have 6 clinics across the country, which treat children using Ponsetti treatment, and counsel parents through the process.
Staff and beneficiaries from each of the 6 clinic areas (Bo, Kenema, Freetown, Makeni, Port Loko and Kono), travelled to Freetown to unite in celebrating World Clubfoot Day 2018. Members of staff from the Ministry of Health and local organisations who had expressed interest in partnership working, were invited to participate.
Children at various stages of their treatment, from casting through to discharge, came along to demonstrate how Ponsetti treatment progresses, and to support each other.
The caregivers of some discharged patients gave thanks to the SLNCP. They encouraged other parents to continue with the Ponsetti treatment, and asked all to continue supporting the programme.
The SLNCP is a programme under the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. While it has historically had support from NGOs, the programme strives towards independence and full absorption within the Ministry. Talking on the issue, the Director of Primary Health Care stated:
“I want to assure people here that the Ministry is going to do all it can, within its powers, to ensure that the programme that you have embarked on is sustained. And, I believe that with the co-ordinator and the programme manager, and the directorate, we will be sitting down to be doing proper planning and budgeting for the forthcoming years”.
Although a technically simple and non-invasive procedure, completing the Ponsetti treatment is a lengthy process, that requires dedication from parents and children. As a small token of appreciation for their commitment, certificates were given to those who have now successfully finished treatment. All were also given a SLNCP t-shirt, with details of the Clinic locations, so that they can spread the word in their communities.
If left untreated, children with clubfoot struggle even to walk. It therefore seemed fitting that the best way to celebrate freedom from Clubfoot for these families, was to host one big celebratory dance!
Once again, we could like to thank the Isle of Man government for their contributions to the SLNCP programme and the difference they have made to the lives of many families in Sierra Leone.