Kenya: Red Cross helps Kenya Medical Training College produce artificial limbs locally

ICRC News 99/23
On 4 June the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) began producing low-cost prosthetic limbs locally with the help of equipment worth KSh 700,000 (US$ 10,000) donated by the ICRC. Manufacturing prostheses in Kenya will reduce the need to import expensive ready-made components and lower the cost of production from KSh 45,000 to KSh 10,000 per limb.

An initial 100 prosthetic limbs are being produced under the supervision of two Kenyan lecturers who have recently returned from an ICRC-sponsored one-month training course in Addis Ababa. A total of 36 students are currently in training.

Speaking after watching the first artificial limbs come off the production line, Donbosco K'Ochumba, head of the Faculty of Orthopaedic Technology at the Training College, said: "We are now better equipped to help a marginalized sector of Kenyan society gain a new lease of life." Although the project is based in Nairobi, Mr K'Ochumba stressed that it will benefit Kenyans nationwide.

Deputy Principal Paul Tuukuo said that the amputees benefiting from the new technology are gaining in confidence and will be able to move more independently and do things for themselves.

The ICRC's Special Fund for the Disabled was created in Addis Ababa in 1983. Its purpose is to provide sustainable projects to assist amputees and other physically disabled people. This mainly entails setting up or providing support for prosthetic workshops and training programmes. As an alternative to wood and polyester resin, since 1988 the ICRC has been using thermoformable plastics: polypropylene and polyethylene. These materials are used for the manufacture of sockets and various other components such as knee joints, feet and alignment devices.

The advantage of this recyclable technology is that light and modern prostheses can be produced at very low cost, making expensive imports unnecessary and providing employment for local workers.