Vision, perseverance, and creative collaboration lead to program launching in war-torn Somalia
MiracleFeet recently launched a program in Somalia, its 27th country since 2010, and one with an enormous backlog of children living with preventable disabilities like clubfoot.
Somalia’s civil war and ongoing political turmoil have devastated the country’s health infrastructure. With few trained providers working there and services available only in major cities, it is difficult for most Somalians to access basic medical care, let alone specialized treatment for complex conditions.
Because of the dire circumstances, thousands of Somali children currently live with untreated clubfoot; the majority can be fully treated and experience normal physical mobility with access to care.
MiracleFeet will run the program in partnership with the Somali Red Crescent (SRCS), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)/MoveAbility and NorCross. Though safety concerns have made it challenging for most NGOs to work continuously in Somalia, ICRC operated throughout Somalia’s civil war and has remained an advocate of rehabilitative services. MoveAbility will provide support in the form of imported materials and help facilitate ongoing training and mentoring.
“With 1 in 7 people worldwide now living in areas of conflict, there is an urgent need to provide basic health services to all people, and to build creative partnerships like this that leverage NGO’s different capabilities to truly serve the world’s most vulnerable,” said Jen Everhart, MiracleFeet’s Director of Programs.
MiracleFeet also runs successful programs in other countries, like Nicaragua and Zimbabwe, where unrest makes operations challenging but vital for the 7,115 children who need treatment. The risk to the professionals who provide treatment in these areas of conflict is real: in 2018 alone, there were nearly 1,000 attacks against health workers worldwide.
Training complete, treatment underway
Because travel to Somalia is impossible for those in neighboring countries, in March of 2019, MiracleFeet’s East Africa partners lead an initial Ponseti training for a team of 10 health professionals from Somalia in Kampala, Uganda. Post-training, the Somalia team has regular access to mentor and lead trainer Emmanuel Kowero, the technical coordinator from MiracleFeet’s partner organization in Tanzania. He will regularly work with the Somali team by Skyping with clinics (where the team plans to mount cameras above casting tables), observing patient appointments, and offering providers real-time feedback on treatment techniques.
“By being flexible and taking advantage of technology, MiracleFeet’s Africa team has found a way to support a group of committed Somali healthcare providers who have long wanted to create a clubfoot program in their war-ravaged country.”
“It is not always easy to support countries where safety is an issue. By being flexible and taking advantage of technology, MiracleFeet’s Africa team has found a way to support a group of committed Somali healthcare providers who have long wanted to create a clubfoot program in their war-ravaged country. We are hopeful more children in Somalia will now get the treatment they deserve,” says Executive Director Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld.
The team has treated 21 children at two clinics so far and anticipates enrolling up to 10 per month as operations get underway in the first few months.
Header photo by UN Photo/Tobin Jones (Mogadishu, Somalia) used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.