A faith-based non-profit organization, Faith Clinical Orthopedic Rehabilitation Center (FACORC), has called on the government and its partners to help rescue children that are suffering from clubfoot, a painful deformity or abnormalty of the foot that affects children across the country. The deformity is curable especially if repaired at an early age.
Clubfoot, also called ‘talipes equinovarus’, is a deformed foot that is twisted so that the sole cannot rest flat on the ground. It is typically congenital or a result of polio. It makes the foot usually smaller than normal. The foot may point downward. The front of the foot may be rotated toward the other foot. The foot may turn in, and in extreme cases, the bottom of the foot can point up.
The executive director of FACORC, Augustine B. Chiewolo, said children with Clubfoot in the country have been neglected for far too long.
Mr. Chiewolo appealed to the government through MOH to pay attention to children with clubfoot deformity and subsidize the Liberia Clubfoot Program by formulating policies that will integrate clubfoot treatment into all health facilities across the country.
“Government must take charge of this program, because more of these children are suffering from this curable deformity,” he stressed.
FACORC established the Clubfoot Program in 2011 by providing free treatment to clubfoot children. The organization has satellite clinics in five of the 15 counties. Since its establishment, FACORC has cured over 700 children with the condition.
This is being done with little or no reliable sources of funding and there are many other children in the country who are in need of the service, Mr. Chiewolo revealed during a two-day national stakeholders retreat on clubfoot. The purpose of the retreat was to bring together all FACORC satellite clubfoot clinics in Liberia with the aim of identifying strategies to sustain the clubfoot program.
Delegates came from Nimba, Bong, Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Grand Gedeh counties. Over 10 parents with clubfoot-affected children who have benefitted from the program were also in attendance. They testified about the good work of FACORC that has transformed their children’s conditions.
“We want to call on the government to see how it can get involved through budget and policy means. People tend to neglect clubfoot children, because they feel that it is not malaria, typhoid or the other illnesses that are killing children, but this is a sickness that must be given serious attention,” Mr. Chiewolo said.
He added that FACORC management was buttressing government’s effort in providing services to children born with this problem, “but we can’t sustain the program without full government support.
FACORC says it has treated more than seven hundred clubfoot cases in Liberia since its establishment in 2011 and has trained more than thirty specialists to repair the deformity.
“We feel compelled to help our brothers, sisters and children who are suffering from this problem that can be easily cured. But you know our people are not aware of the actual cause of this problem. Some feel that it is caused by witchcraft,” he pointed out.
Giving statistics on the problem, Mr. Chiewolo said about 190 to 200 children are born with clubfoot every year in Liberia. When not treated early, the condition leaves the child crippled for life. “We are therefore calling them neglected clubfoot victims,” he said.
Mr. Chiewolo noted that although clubfoot is painless in a baby, treatment should begin immediately because the condition could cause significant problems as the child grows older. “But with early treatment most children born with clubfoot are able to lead a normal life. We need to help these children,” he reemphasized.
Clubfoot, in some cases, is caused as a result of the position of the baby while it is developing in the mother’s womb. This is known as postural clubfoot.
More often the deformity is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors that are not well understood. If someone in your family has clubfoot, then it is more likely to occur in your child. If your family has one child with clubfoot, the chances of a second infant having the condition increase.
FACORC, on June 3, 2015, celebrated World Clubfoot Day for the first time in Liberia.
A mother, Oretha Saylee, from Grand Gedeh, whose child has been cured of the deformity, praised FACORC for making her child normal again. She said she couldn’t believe that that her child’s foot could ever have been corrected and strengthened again.
“I want to tell the people thank you. I am really happy that my daughter can walk straight now,” she said with excitement and gratitude.
A mother of three, Ms. Saylee indicated that there are many children out there who are also suffering from the deformity and need help. “I want the government to help these people so they may reach most of our children who have this problem,” she pleaded.