Namibia Clubfoot Programme raises awareness

05 Dec 2015 10:40am


It is estimated that 100 children in Namibia are born with clubfoot every year, the Minister of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) Bernard Haufiku says.

"This means that we expect to have over 1 200 patients in the Namibian Clubfoot Programme. There is an obvious need and we clearly have our work cut out for us, but this should not be a cause for despair, rather a celebration of the opportunity and challenge that presents itself to us," Haufiku said in a speech delivered on his behalf at the National Awareness Campaign of Namibia Clubfoot that took place in the capital on Friday.

Since its inception in 2013, the programme has seen a significant rise in the number of patients assisted with corrective orthotics for clubfoot, both in the corrective phase as well as the maintenance phase of treatment. Patient numbers have increased from 13 in the first year to 263 in 2015.

"This is an impressive achievement for a programme that is, strictly speaking, still in its infancy, and I not only foresee but expect this number to rise steadily in the coming years," the minister noted.

The programme has so far extended to the Oshakati, Rundu and Keetmanshoop State hospitals, where 102 patients are in the programme and are receiving care. The minister stressed that he expects the programme to expand to involve all 14 regions in the next few years.

"Not only is this in line with the ministry's objective of decentralising health care services, but it also serves the dual purpose of reaching as many patients in need as possible and enhancing skills of those involved in healthcare in these regions, training being one of the core objectives of the programme," Haufiku stressed.

Clubfoot is a foot deformity in which an infant?s foot is turned inward so that the sole cannot be placed flat on the ground. If a child's clubfoot is not treated, the foot will remain deformed, preventing the child from walking normally.

According to the Global Clubfoot Initiative, approximately 150 000 to 200 000 babies are born with clubfoot every year. Roughly 80 per cent of these are in low- and middle-income countries. It is estimated that 1 out of 1 000 infants are born with clubfoot in the African region.

"We do not know the causes of clubfoot, and the Namibian Clubfoot Programme is a fantastic platform to participate in ongoing regional and global research collaborations. We should take full advantage of this opportunity and establish ourselves not just as providers of excellent healthcare, but as regional leaders in the generation of new knowledge and one day pioneers in this field," the minister urged.

Speaking at the same event, World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative in Namibia, Quazi Monirul Islam explained that clubfoot diagnosed at birth or soon after can often be treated using a minimal invasive technique called the Ponseti method. "This method involves multiple manipulations and plaster castings early in a child's life," she explained. 

The surgery consists of manually aligning the child's foot with the application of a series of casts. "These techniques have been quite effective in the industrialised world; they require minimal resources and can be implemented by health personnel in primary healthcare facilities," she added.

The aim of the National Awareness Campaign is to raise public awareness that clubfoot is correctable, and to improve the provision of foot orthotics.