Club foot | Mali

Mali is one of the spots in the world where you realize that you cannot take health care for granted. Wherever you go you see penniless people. There are not many things they can rely on. Especially when it comes to health care the smallest problem can ruin their existence totally. Even in Bamako, the capital of the country, people hardly see any chance to live a different life which let the slums around the city grow bigger and bigger.

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One of these problems is a club foot, a congenital defect which 700 children in Mali are born with every year. Club foot is an up to 90 degree deformation of the foot inside and upwards. With a club foot it is impossible to walk.

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This is not exclusively an African problem but in Europe it is treated easier right after birth. In Mali it can decide over having a normal life or being physically disabled which means in such a poor country that you are unable to earn money for the rest of your life.

Mali has an orthopedic center (Centre National d’Appareillage Orthopédique du Mali – CNAOM) where extremely kind people fight for cheap but effective solutions for such problems. Doctor Kiré is treating thousands of young children from the whole west coast. The bordering workshop is producing surgical shoes.

There is a very easy and effective treatment for club foot.

But the child has to be treated very early and there is only one orthopedic center on the west coast and people do not even have enough money to travel there never mind for the accommodation. Even though the treatment is free and there are a few beds for patients from apart people with a monthly salary of 25 euros do not even have enough money for the bus to the center.

But the technique is nearly bloodless and not dangerous. Mainly it needs enough cast and only one small cut without extreme sterile conditions. It only takes 6 weeks! Every week the foot is moved 20 degrees and fixed by a cast. The last step is cutting the Achilles tendon and fixing the foot one last week in the right angle. In the end the kids have to wear orthopedic shoes for some time depending on the severity of their former club foot.

Because of this noninvasive treatment many families spend all their money for the future of their child and not at least for their own future with a healthy child.

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First online publication in November 2010 at derstandard online.

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