Zimbabwe Day 2: Prosthetics and Policy

My second day in Zimbabwe was spent seemingly entirely in taxis as I was ferried from one place to another in search of my appointments.  In the morning, I visited an NGO service provider, Jairos Jiri, and in the afternoon an advocate for persons with disability, the Disabled Women’s Support Organization.

The Jairos Jiri Orthopedic Workshop is one of the facilities in Zimbabwe that produces prosthetic devices for amputees.

Products of Jairos Jiri's Orthopedic Workshop

Products of Jairos Jiri’s Orthopedic Workshop

The workshop had a staff of eight on the day I visited, five technicians, a cleaner, an accountant and the director.  The technicians and the accountant are persons with disability and while the Workshop wasn’t intended as a sheltered program, that’s how it has developed.  Some of the technicians have been with Jairos Jiri for more than twenty years and produce high quality items with less than ideal resources.  For wheelchairs, they accept donated chairs and then re-furbish them, customized to the client.  For prosthetics, they conduct an initial assessment, measure, fabricate and then fit below-knee and above-knee prostheses.

Gilbert, Director of the Orthopedic Workshop, holds up a new prosthetic leg.

Gilbert, Director of the Orthopedic Workshop, holds up a new prosthetic leg.

The technicians are also able to produce orthopedic shoes and assist with adjustment of crutches.

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Unfortunately, Jairos Jiri is not able to provide these items free of charge.  Because the raw materials for prosthetics need to be imported, there is some cost to the client; wheelchairs, even though they are made from donated parts may still cost US $100 (compared to $250 – 300 for new).  For some clients, medical aid is available reducing the cost, but there is still an out-of-pocket expense for clients.  Gilbert, the Director of the Workshop, estimates 10 people come to the workshop every day for consultation or assessment, but only a handful of those are able to purchase the products, even at the reduced rates offered by Jairos Jiri.

On top of the costs, the facility itself is a fair distance from the center of Harare and far from public transportation options.  When I visited at the Workshop, I saw the technician who makes the shoes arriving in a hand-cranked wheelchair. The Workshop is about 300 meters from the main road, up a fairly steep slope which is potholed and broken.  And this, for residents of Harare, is the most affordable options for prosthetics and mobility devices.

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Rejoice Timire, Disabled Women’s Support Organization

In the afternoon, I met with Rejoice Timire, the head of the Disabled Women’s Support Organization (DWSO).  Our meeting took place in an internet cafe which Rejoice uses as a base of operations to keep overhead costs to a minimum.  With over 5,000 members, DWSO is an active advocacy organization for women’s rights and disability rights in Zimbabwe, working with both communities to amplify its voice. DWSO was one of the disabled people’s organizations in Zimbabwe that successfully pushed for Zimbabwe’s accession to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Now, the DPOs must push for localization and implementation of the CRPD by the Department of Social Welfare, the focal point for the CRPD.

In the past, Rejoice and DWSO members participated in a peer support outreach program at the local hospitals.  The program focused on persons who suffered from spinal injuries and other traumatic injuries and sought to help them understand and accept their condition, to “welcome them to our world,” as Rejoice described it.  Due to funding, this worthy program has been discontinued.

Disabled Women’s Support Organization conducts awareness raising activities, one of the largest will be next month’s Disability Explore which is attended by members of Parliament and organized with assistance from the Disability Desk in the President’s office.

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