Over 1000 children in Cameroon are born with clubfoot annually, according to the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS) .
Clubfoot is a foot deformity which causes the foot to become abnormal. It leaves one’s feet twisted, with toes pointing downwards, while the heels are bent. Experts say a child with the foot deformity has stiff toes which can’t be easily pulled backwards.
Although the health problem is little known and not life threatening, experts say the condition requires as much attention as any other health problem.
This is why the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) came up with the Cameroon Clubfoot Care Project in 2014 in partnership with the Christian Blind Mission (CBM).
Eight years after the project was set up, the International Chief Executive Officer of the Christian Blind Mission (CBM), Dr. Rainer Brockhaus, paid a visit to the Ekoumndoum Baptist Hospital in Yaoundé on September 12, 2022.
Dr. Rainer went through the various units that make up the health structure and had a first hand appraisal of strides made to improve care to children with clubfoot. He also exchanged with parents whose children have been treated of the malformation. At the end of the visit, Dr. Reiner lauded the palpable results of CBC orthopedic doctors.
“It’s amazing how CBC really changes the lives of small children who could not walk because of clubfoot that was not treated, he said. “These children can start walking, playing and even do sports. What I have seen here in the hospital is an extremely high level of professionalism and care,” according to Dr. Reiner
From 2014-2022, the cordinator of the Cameroon Clubfoot Care Project says 2048 children have been treated of clubfoot- about 70% of them children below 2 years.
Causes and Treatment of Clubfoot
The cause of the foot deformity which affects mostly children is not clearly known. But Fanfon Timothy, Physiotherapist Supervisor of Cameroon Baptist convention Physiotherapy Services, and Ponseti Trainer at the Clubfoot Care Project says there is evidence that it can be passed from the parents to the children. “But we also have cases of children who have been born with clubfoot without that kind of history. It’s not caused by witchcraft like many people think. It’s just a structural deformity that comes when a child is born,” he said.
Clubfoot is treated with the help of the Ponseti technique, at the cost of between FCFA 50,000 to FCFA 150,000. That method easily corrects the deformity. The expert further explains : “If they begin treatment within the first two months of life, the foot is corrected.
Treatment has two important phases; the first two months is to correct the deformity and the second phase is to maintain the foot that has been corrected so that the child can start walking. So we follow up the child till about 4 years.”
The Cameroon Clubfoot Care Project
The Cameroon clubfoot project which was set up by the CBC and CBM in 2014 was implemented in two regions in Cameroon from 2014-2015. The goal was to provide evidence of the presence of clubfoot in Cameroon, and prove that it could be effectively treated using the Ponseti technique.
Between 2016-2018, the second phase of the project was carried out. During this time, clubfoot care services were extended to eight regions of the country.
The third phase of the project started in 2020 with the aim of strengthening the health system and integrating clubfoot treatment in the public health sector in Cameroon.
Also among strides made by the Cameroon Clubfoot Care Project from 2014-2022 are ; training more than 100 physiotherapists on the Ponseti technique, 10 doctors and surgeons, 12 staff on tenotomy, 480 midwives on early identification of deformity , and 95 medical students and 97 physiotherapy students on the Ponseti approach.
In 2019, the Public Health Ministry appointed a focal person to coordinate clubfoot activities in the country. That was followed by the adoption of national directives on clubfoot treatment, and the appointment of a national management team.
Within 8 years of existence, the Cameroon Clubfoot Care Project has set up 25 clinics in health facilities in Cameroon where the deformity is corrected. And stakeholders say they are expecting to break more grounds in the days ahead.
Kathy Neba Sina