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Bo Ban, Quang Tri (20 August 2012)

Phan Thi Huong smiled as she was trying to walk with her new orthotic brace along the corridor of the Bo Ban Medical Center in Trieu Phong District. Suffering from polio at the age of one and a half, Huong has been relying on the use of one leg and thus dependent on a pair of wooden crutches for mobility. This morning she went back to the Medical Center together with 26 other people with disabilities (PWD) who are receiving assistive devices provided by RENEW’s Mobile Prosthetic & Orthotic (P&O) Outreach Clinic.

new brace

It takes a little time to get used to a new prosthetic brace.

 Huong earns her living as a tailor which doesn’t require much mobility. However, monthly income from tailoring just barely meets her families needs as this 45-year-old woman is supporting two growing sons, both enrolled in school. She never dared to dream of a prosthesis. Today the new prosthetic brace that fits well on her leg is a dream come true for her.

Having received two artificial limbs, Vo Muong, a 59-year-old amputee, was being guided by the P&O technician on how to use them. Muong lost both legs during his journey back home from the south in 1975 when the bus he was on hit a landmine. He was able to acquire a prosthesis ten years ago but because of the deterioration of the prosthetic and the ever changing nature of an amputated limb, the old prosthetic is not longer adequate “I stagger when trying on these new limbs but I’m sure I will adjust quickly. Now I must go home to practice using them,” said Muong.

It was the third visit that the P&O team paid to this community with today being the day to deliver the customized prostheses to the beneficiaries. The P&O Clinic’s process has three stages including measurement and casting, production and fitting of the devices, and modification and delivery. It normally takes one month to complete the process for one group.

“It’s very important to get our recipients to try these prosthesis first so as we can modify any defects that they might have before final delivery for use,” said Nguyen Duc Lo, P&O team leader. “So the second stage is the most important,” he added.

Huong, Muong and other PWDs from several communes of Trieu Phong District are new beneficiaries of RENEW’s P&O Outreach Program. Launched in 2008 with initial funding from the U.S Department of State and now the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with Tromsoe Mine Victim Resource Center (TMC), the P&O Program provides rehabilitation services to PWDs in rural, mostly mountainous areas of the province who have never had access to such services. Doctors and technicians travel into remote areas equipped with tools and machines necessary to conduct on-site examinations, to fit and adjust the custom devices, and make sure amputees and other mobility impaired children and adults can function comfortably with their artificial devices .

“Most of the survivors live in difficult conditions so they feel very happy when the P&O team visits their residence and offers rehabilitation services restoring their mobility,” said Nguyen Duc Loc, RENEW P&O team leader. “This is a humanitarian program which focuses on underprivileged and marginalized PWDs. It should be continued and expanded to serve more people in remote and rural areas of the province,” he added.

customised limbs

Since the P&O program was launched in 2008, 800 PWDs, including many UXO survivors in Quang Tri Province, have been examined and provided with assistive devices. However, there remains a massive need for such services among the population of Quang Tri Province which has about 37,000 PWDs, most of whom are victims of Agent Orange-related birth defects and UXO accidents.

Project RENEW is grateful to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Department of State and Tromsoe Mine Victim Resource Center (TMC) for technical and financial support.

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