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More than 30,000 children in Africa are born with clubfoot each year. Many thousands of these children get no treatment, as it is simply not available where they live. They end up with severe deformities that make it hard and very painful to walk.

World Clubfoot Day, 3 June, is the birthday of Dr Ignacio Ponseti, who developed the simple Ponseti treatment, which is successful in up to 95 per cent of clubfoot cases, especially if this is initiated early. This involves gently manipulating the feet to a better position and putting them in a cast.

NHS volunteers from NDORMS and the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre have been providing much-needed clubfoot training in Africa, particularly in the last 2 years through the Africa Clubfoot Training (ACT) project. The ACT team of 16 UK surgeons and physiotherapists from NHS Trusts across the UK have helped to train 136 local healthcare professionals in Ethiopia and Rwanda to treat clubfoot, and 51 local trainers from across 18 countries in Africa. They have helped develop a new set of clubfoot teaching materials that are now being rolled out across the continent by local trainers, improving access to clubfoot treatment for many children, and strengthening support and mentoring for clubfoot practitioners.

ACT clubfoot training course in Nairobi, Kenya, January 2016. Photos courtesy of CURE Clubfoot.

The ACT partners successfully raised a further £83,000 in November 2016 through an OxReach crowdfunding campaign to extend the roll-out of clubfoot training to more healthcare professionals across Africa, and courses are now scheduled for late 2017.

Professor Chris Lavy, orthopaedic surgeon, who leads the ACT project, said: “It’s always great to raise awareness on World Clubfoot Day about clubfoot and the importance of making effective treatment available to children so that they can walk and lead a normal life. We especially celebrate it this year, as we look back on all the fantastic support from NHS and international colleagues to test and complete the new training materials, and also from the general public who have given so generously – so many more children will be able to access the life-changing treatment they need to help them walk.” 

ACT clubfoot training course in Kenya, January 2017, in partnership with CURE Clubfoot Kenya. Images reproduced courtesy of CURE Clubfoot

The ACT Project is a partnership between the NDORMS, CURE Ethiopia Children’s Hospital, CURE Clubfoot, Global Clubfoot Initiative (GCI), CURE International UK and local ministries of health, supported by the UK Clubfoot Consensus Group. The initial funding was from the UK Department for International Development. 

Photos: ACT clubfoot training course in Kenya, January 2017, in partnership with CURE Clubfoot Kenya. Images reproduced courtesy of CURE Clubfoot.