Athletes with disabilities will now be able to easily access prostheses, the artificial body parts to facilitate them in sports, thanks to a new prosthetics and orthotics laboratory unveiled Thursday.
The $400,000 (approx. Rwf394 million) facility is relief for people with disabilities who have endured the shortage and the high cost of some prostheses, especially for athletes.
Hosted at the University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Science, the laboratory was inaugurated on December 17, and will train and increase the number of prosthetists
Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of the National Council of People with disabilities (NCPD), welcomed the development that has taken into account athletes who need prostheses.
"The unique part of solutions the laboratory has brought is that people with disabilities in sports will benefit. Only prostheses for those who do sports while sitting were available yet athletes were not accessing proper prostheses they needed. This becomes the first laboratory with such prostheses for athletes in Rwanda," he said.
He said that some rehabilitation centres based in prostheses across the country will no longer face the shortage of skilled professionals.
Questions of affordability raised
Ndayisaba said that NCPD is seeking a partnership with the University of Rwanda and Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) to address issues related to the high cost of prostheses.
Currently, the cost of prostheses ranges between Rwf300,000 and Rwf3 million, he disclosed.
Like it with other health services given to patients, Ndayisaba says, mutuelle de santé should be able to cater for prostheses.
Ndayisaba said that there are over 51,000 people with disabilities out of over officially registered 154,000 disabled people who need prostheses.
However, in general, there are over 446,000 people with disabilities scattered across the country, meaning that those who need prostheses are many.
He said the number keeps increasing as diseases and accidents create more causalities.
Jeanne Kagwiza, the Acting Principal of College of Medicine and Health Science at UR said that the prosthetics department had no laboratory for this discipline of medicine.
"Students were struggling to do practical lessons," he said. "We will also help other centres such as Gahini centre that don't have enough equipment to produce prostheses."
She added prosthetics is part of a Centre of Excellence of Biomedical Engineering and Rehabilitation being constructed.
"The centre will have high standards including research. It will produce 500 prostheses that will be offered to vulnerable in need," she explained.
Minister of Education, Valentine Uwamariya said: "The laboratory will use different technologies. It will consider characteristics of each person, weight, size and financial capacity. It is laudable that it has considered disabled people who do sports."
Subhash Sihna, Regional Physical Rehabilitation Manager for East Africa at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that for the past six years they have provided support to develop human resource for rehabilitation professionals including the new laboratory as well as supplying of reference books to prosthetics and orthotics library.