“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” -Proverbs 22:6
Clubfoot was once a debilitating birth deformity that guaranteed those born with it would never walk properly. Around the world, each day 500 children are born with clubfoot.
Clubfoot is the most common foot deformity. It is caused by a shortened Achilles tendon that twists the foot downward and inward, which makes walking difficult or impossible. If left untreated, clubfoot leads to a lifetime of disability. However, if clubfoot is treated early, children can walk and function normally.
In many countries, clubfoot isn’t treated – the doctors are not trained, cultural beliefs dissuade parents from seeking treatment, or clinics are located far from home.
However, nonprofit organizations like Hope Walks are dedicated to removing the barriers to treatment in order to provide the life-changing, corrective treatment for clubfoot.
Clubfoot is easily treated using the Ponseti Method, the world standard for correcting clubfoot in children. In fact, treatment can be completed before children begin learning how to walk.
The Ponseti Method utilizes a simple method of gentle manipulation and weekly cast changes, followed by a minimally invasive outpatient procedure (tenotomy) to lengthen the Achilles tendon. Clubfoot can be corrected within six to eight weeks. Correction is then maintained with bracing, primarily at night and during nap-time, until the age of five.
The Ponseti Method can be performed by trained medical and paramedical staff, making it ideal for low- to middle-income countries where there is a significant lack of pediatric orthopedic surgeons.
Through the Global Clubfoot Initiative and its Run Free 2030 campaign, Hope Walks is working to provide access to treatment for at least 70 percent of children born with clubfoot in low- and middle-income countries by 2030. Hope Walks reports that less than 15 percent of children in these countries have access to clubfoot treatment.
Hope Walks continues to expand its network of clinics that provide care (free of charge) to children who so desperately deserve a chance to “run free”.
Hope Walks partners with 137 clinics in 17 countries throughout Africa and South America. Across Ethiopia, Hope Walks supports clubfoot care in 32 national and faith-based health centers. An estimated 4,470 children are born each year with clubfoot in Ethiopia, but only 1,300 new cases received treatment in 2019. Hope Walks has a goal of expanding the reach of treatment so that 70 percent of infants with clubfoot can be treated before the age of two.
The Rees-Jones Foundation began supporting Hope Walks, formerly part of CURE International, in 2008 and has contributed more than $3.8 million toward its child orthopedic care initiatives in Ethiopia.
Motivated by the life-changing work of Hope Walks, in 2018 the Foundation set an internal goal to treat 70 percent of all new clubfoot cases in Ethiopia. The Foundation is proud to partner with Hope Walks while working toward this goal.
This article originally appeared in The Rees-Jones Foundation 2019 Summary of Grants.