According to the NYTimes there are approximately 2,000-8,000 earthquake related amputees in Haiti. Time magazine estimates that number may reach up to 150,000 by the end of the year due to infection and complicated fractures. Although some state that number is exaggerated, there is no doubt of the massive need of wheelchairs, prostheses, and physical therapy for the large number of debilitating injuries suffered in the Haitian earthquake.
Our practice is committed to supporting long term projects which will try to address these needs both in the short and long terms. The requirement is that they incorporate appropriate technology, local involvement/employment, and education. Below are a few organizations which are working specifically to meet the need of rehabilitative services in Haiti. Please feel free to forward us any additional organizations that you know of working in this area.
Whirlwind Wheelchairs is raising money to supply Haiti with 350 affordable wheelchairs made of bicycle parts that any welding shop can build/service. I have been following this group for over a decade and have all admiration for their work. Ralf Hotchkiss, the director, is wheelchair bound himself and came up with an open source wheelchair design which is sturdy, easily serviceable, and more appropriate for the terrain in developing countries. From their website:
“Today, Whirlwind designs are tested to achieve double the international wheelchair standard for durability. And, because the grit of village roads will eventually wear out any chair, Whirlwind chairs use only locally available parts like bicycle wheels and the standard bearings used in the ubiquitous Honda motorcycles. All parts are available virtually everywhere at an affordable cost and can be installed with basic tools.
$40 will buy two all terrain wheels.
$220 will buy a complete RoughRider wheelchair with a 10-year lifespan.”
Whirlwind Wheelchair Haiti Donation Site
World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT)
The World Confederation of Physical Therapy is aggregating job posts for physical therapy positions in Haiti. So far the organizations include Health Volunteers Overseas, CBM, and Handicap International. PTs may want to check this site for future updates.
World Confederation for Physical Therapy- Haiti Site
This is an excerpt from a ground report from CBM (Feb 2010):
The hospital is full of patients who need post operative treatment. The hospital needed to create space inside and many patients are now in tents outside on the parking and driveway waiting to be discharged. But where can they go? Many have lost their house and they can only go back to a heap of rubble. Before discharge they need wheelchairs, crutches and other walking aids, of which we do not have enough. There are hardly physiotherapists in the country, so they need to be recruited from outside. Handicap International and CBM are doing that. The first physiotherapist for CBM will arrive on Sunday and soon more will follow.
We have seen situations where patients have been discharged without proper walking appliances and instructions for weight bearing, essential for good bone healing. We also see infected stumps, and stumps that need to undergo surgery again at a higher level. We can only do so much. It is a desperate situation for many of these patients. But the few that did get some attention appreciate it if you spend some time with them, exercise with them, and make them actually stand up and walk with crutches or a walking frame. A glimmer of hope and a smile to say “see you tomorrow”.
American Physical Therapy Association APTA Haiti website
CBM Donation Site
Health Volunteers Overseas(HVO) has encouraged donations to a local Haitian hospital called Hôpital Albert Schweitzer and Interaction
Handicap International Haiti web page