Liberia joined other countries around the world on Saturday, June 3, to commemorate World Clubfoot Day. Clubfoot, commonly referred to as ‘turtle foot,’ is a birth deformity in which an infant’s foot is turned inward, often so severely that the bottom of the foot faces sideways or even upward. The condition can be corrected by surgical and non-surgical interventions.
Although the day was observed for the first time in the country’s history, the Liberia Clubfoot Program (LCP) held appropriate activities including a parade by children with the deformity, those who have been successfully treated, and the day’s organizers throughout Paynesville, where the LCP headquarters is located.
An indoor program held earlier in the day highlighted the history, statistics, treatment reports and future plans from the seven treatment centers across the country.
This year’s World Clubfoot Day also witnessed the expansion of LCP activities, formerly the Faith Orthopedic Rehabilitation Center (FARCO) that functions in Sinoe, Grand Kru, River Gee counties and other satellite treatment centers in the entire Southeastern region.
LCP executive director Augustine Chiewolo said the observance of World Clubfoot Day in Liberia marks a significant milestone in the country’s history as it strives to eradicate clubfoot from the 15 counties.
Mr. Chiewolo reiterated an appeal to the Liberian government for budgetary support to make the LCP an integral part of the Ministry of Health (MoH) in order to adequately treat the condition affecting hundreds of children.
He said more than 200 children are born with club-foot annually, which is resulting to a large number of sufferers who are being discriminated against in academic settings and at social environments.
Chiewolo called on the parents of children with clubfoot to take their children for treatment “free-of-charge by the LCP,” and urged them to get actively involved in tracing and treating clubfoot cases at the seven treatment centers and satellite clinics at Phebe Hospital in Gbarnga, Bong County, Ganta United Methodist Hospital in Nimba County, and CH Rennie Hospital in Kakata, Margibi County.
Mr. Chiewolo is a Liberian medical expert and Ponseti specialist (The Ponseti method is a new worldwide treatment for children born with clubfoot). He cautioned community dwellers not to discriminate against children with deformities like clubfoot, but to consider them as one of their own by showing them love, respect and good care.
Meanwhile, clubfoot can be repaired by casting or surgery, according to Web MD. Sometimes nonsurgical treatments such as casting can correct clubfoot. Casting is a method for correcting clubfoot in the hopes of avoiding surgery.
According to Wikipedia, the Ponseti method is the most common non-surgical technique used. In this treatment, the doctor gently stretches the deformed foot into a more normal position and secures it with a cast. Every few days or weeks, the foot’s position is stretched even more towards a normal position and the cast is replaced.
Over the course of six to eight weeks, clubfoot may be corrected without surgery. Casting is more successful for those with mild clubfoot and those treated within the first two weeks of birth.
Babies and older patients who have severe clubfoot may not respond to casting. They need surgery to correct the condition.
Reverend Bannie Wanyon, Coordinator of the LCP, said that with the commitment of volunteers at all the treatment centers, the entity will be in a better position to eradicate clubfoot from Liberia, in the West African Sub-region, and also on the entire African continent.
Rev. Wanyon called on African leaders to support the treatment of clubfoot using the Liberia study as a test case.