What Will Happen to Haitian Amputees?

Time.com ran an article yesterday that addressed a tough question – what is going to happen to amputees in Haiti? What happens to a culture that has traditionally excluded amputees when suddenly 100,000 people lose limbs? And how do those amputees get the medical care that they need? One answer might be an affordable prosthetic foot developed in India.

Haiti has not historically offered many services for amputees. Prostheses were rare, and amputees tended to assume their productive lives were over. Now, as a result of earthquake injuries, approximately 100,000 people have now had limbs amputated.

Ordinary fundraising is unlikely to be able to meet this enormous need. Prosthetic limbs are expensive; even the most basic model costs a minimum of $1000. Charitable donations of prostheses will not be able to meet a need for a hundred million limbs. Haiti is going to need a new model if its amputees are going to be able to lead fulfilling lives. Time magazine supports the suggestion of a UN official that Haiti manufacture its own prosthetic limbs, developing a large-scale prosthetic industry.  

I agree with the unnamed UN official. This is a great opportunity for Haiti to take care of its own people, create jobs, and develop industry. I also have a suggestion for how to get started. The Jaipur Foot was developed in India. It is durable, highly functional, and low cost. The limb is manufactured using technology easily available in India; I am sure that it would also be available in Haiti. The organization behind it has already done trainings for technicians around the world. They would be an excellent fit for Haiti.