, rare neuromuscular conditions and spinal deformities which make walking and movement difficult.
Five-year-old Melissa has Cerebral Palsy, a condition where damage to neurons in her brain and spinal cord, cause spasms and muscle atrophy. Movement is exhausting for Melissa, so she is unable to run and play with friends at school. Without help, she is in danger of permanent muscle contraction, leaving her wheelchair dependent for the rest of her life.
Specialist orthotic treatment for patients like Melissa can improve the chances of leading an active life
, but presently, Tunisia’s orthotic clinicians are only qualified to treat minor conditions. The lack of expertise means cases like Melissa’s are either left untreated or provided with unsuitable assistive devices. People living with severe disabilities in Tunisia are facing avoidable complications, because the specialist orthotic treatment they need, is simply not available.
A group of five Tunisian women P&O students, together with German NGO Human Study, are working to address the problem. Human Study is the only NGO in the world today, capable of delivering internationally accredited, blended learning prosthetic and orthotic training to students in developing countries, where there is little or no access to higher education. Through Human Study’s rigorous curriculum, this group of five women have been training on the job at Tunisian P&O clinics. They are on the brink of qualifying as the first senior graduates at Cat 1 level, in the whole of the Arab speaking world.
Melissa was lucky enough to be treated by these students, overseen by the Human Study team, as part of their training programme. The women learnt how to reduce Melissa’s spasticity with tailor-made foot orthosis, helping Melissa to stand and walk. She now has the freedom to enjoy her childhood.
It is stories like Melissa’s which have spurred our students on with their six years of studies. Today, they are on the brink of qualifying, scheduled to sit their final exams in June, a matter of weeks from now. At this critical moment, we learned that funding in place to pay for their exams, has been cut short. It is a serious setback. If these women don’t qualify, they will not be certified to offer advanced rehabilitation, and any gains we thought we had made for people living with severe disabilities in Tunisia will be lost.
In a male dominated profession, this group of Tunisian women are incredibly important, not least because female patients often prefer being treated by women. At a time when more than 80,000 civilians have suffered casualties and amputations resulting from Syria’s civil war, Human Study’s Syria program is addressing the drastic shortage of P&O technicians, by training students who are capable of handling the task. Our Tunisian women are poised to tackle language barriers, as the first ever mentors ready to deliver advanced P&O training modules to Syrian technicians directly in Arabic. If they do not qualify this June, the training for Syrian technicians cannot proceed. Our Tunisian women are set to be trail blazers, capable of improving the lives of people with injuries and disabilities throughout the Arab world, an opportunity which is in danger of being lost.
Please help us raise the outstanding €21,000 Euros needed for the final push to get o
ur Tunisian women through their exams. Your money will help to cover travel costs to Bangkok where the exam is hosted by Mahidol University. Your support will cover exam fees as well as a week of accommodation and living expenses for the women.
Each and every donation big or small is truly appreciated and will help create a better future for thousands of people living with disabilities.
*Melissa’s name has been changed to protect her identity