In 2019, Uhambo, the Rotary Club of Fort Collins and the Newcastle Club have received a RI grant to provide holistic clinical services and devices to children with mobility disabilities in Newcastle, South Africa, as well as build the local capacity of the community so they can meet the needs of their disabled population.
For Phase 2 in 2020, we propose to continue this project in the community that will improve the quality of life of children with disabilities, increase the skills of health care providers and community workers, increase the knowledge and skills of caregivers (family members and staff), decrease the stigma around disabilities, and create a network of support in the community -- all of which allows for the community to sustain supporting children with disabilities.
By the Fall of 2019, upon completion of several activities for the current grant, we will be able to further define what will be needed for Phase 2 but it will most likely include:
1. Conduct outreach clinical services
2. Recommendations and manufacturing of customized, appropriate devices for children in need
3. Train local clinical therapists from the Department of Health
4. Training caregivers
5. "Let's Talk" disability sensitization trainings
6. Empowerment of community for advocacy activities on behalf of children with disabilities
Children with disabilities and their parents and caregivers in rural areas of South Africa have limited access to the medical devices and services they need. Appropriate and comfortable seating is key to achieving independence and social inclusion. Without a proper wheelchair, individuals may develop secondary medical challenges such as pressure ulcers. In fact, this condition is one of the leading causes of death among paralyzed people in the developing world.
The World Health Organization states that as many as 80% of those who need wheelchairs live in low income and developing regions, such as Africa. Only a small percentage of those who need a wheelchair have one. Studies have shown that assistive technologies, such as wheelchairs, when fitting for the user and the user's environment, have a significant impact on the level of independence and participation which people with disabilities are able to achieve (WHO, 2011). They have been reported to reduce the need for formal support services (WHO, 2011) as well as reduce the time and physical burden for caregivers (Allen et al., 2006).
The use of mobility devices, in particular, creates opportunities for education and work, and contributes to improved health and quality of life (May-Teerink, 1999; Eide & Oderud, 2009; Shore, 2008). Wheelchairs, thus, provide children with disabilities with the opportunity to become participating members of society ("Guidelines on the provision of manual wheelchairs in less resourced settings", WHO 2008).
Other challenges in the disability sector in South Africa include: a shortage of experienced and specialized providers in rural areas, lack of funding by the government, and stigma or lack of understanding about the nature of disabilities. Through Uhambo's grassroots and holistic programs, some of the most vulnerable people in the world, children with disabilities, are served and these issues are addressed through the provision of appropriate devices and equipment, customized training and community development.
Our project will take place in Newcastle, South Africa including the main townships of Madadeni and Osizweni. This region has over 500,00 people, approximately 5,200 people have a mobility disability and 2,600 children have mobility disabilities. All children with mobility disabilities are classified as needing "specialized" wheelchair seating (because over time they grow and the chair needs to fit their condition and size).
Newcastle-Majuba Rotary Club members have experienced the needs of children in this community after they distributed more than 100 standard (not specialized) wheelchairs in the community in 2017. Therapists throughout Africa have not been trained to seat or fit children in specialized wheelchairs. In addition, there are currently no early childhood development centers available in the community for children with disabilities.