The George Washington University

Eliminating Physical Immobility for Children (EPIC) in Africa

Medical support services

EPIC will eliminate immobility for physically challenged children and enable participation in society in eastern Africa through provision of innovative and contextually appropriate assistive devices.

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Worldwide between 93-150 million children under 18 years live with some form of disability. Child disability is especially high in Africa where access to appropriate assistive devices such as wheelchairs is a big challenge. The goal of Eliminating Physical Immobility for Children (EPIC) in Africa is to eliminate physical immobility for every disabled child in eastern Africa. We will do this through discovery, development and delivery. Discovery will generate data and evidence on child physical disability. Through harmonizing child disability measurement, we will determine the true size of child population that need wheelchairs. Development will change the ecosystem of wheelchair production and procurement in eastern Africa by establishing strong local production and supply system for appropriate and affordable wheelchairs. Delivery will ensure that every child with physical immobility gets appropriate wheelchair in eastern Africa. For children, wheelchairs offer more than mobility; they ensure independence, health, development and social integration.

Problem Statement

Globally, more than 1 billion people need at least one form of assistive device (AD) but over 90% (900 million) do not have access to it; and nearly 150 million children less than 18 years live with some form of disability. The burden of child disability is especially high in Africa; for example, estimates indicate that the prevalence of disability among children is as high as 31% in Sierra Leone, 23% in Cameron and 16% in Ghana. Access to appropriate AD for mobility such as wheelchairs, is a big challenge in sub-Saharan Africa; they are mostly imported, are costly, maintenance services are not available and these issues pose a major challenge. In addition, mobility products manufactured in high-income countries are often inappropriate for the physical and social context of Africa. Lack of appropriate ADs creates significant barriers for millions of children in Africa since less than 10% of children with disabilities receive any form of education and only 2% attend school. Furthermore, children with disabilities often do not have access to adequate health care due to physical inaccessibility or challenges related to travel; and they face major barriers to access water points, community, recreation and religious centers. Enabling mobility for these children by provision of appropriate wheelchairs will not only give them freedom to move, but empower them to participate in educational, health and social life – and set the stage for becoming fully productive members of society.

Solution Overview

The goal of EPIC is to help eliminate physical immobility for disabled children in eastern Africa. EPIC will address lower limb disability of any type that makes children unable to walk and therefore unable to participate in educational, social and cultural activities, by providing an African wheelchair assembled for local conditions. Ensuring physical mobility, coupled with a population-based stigma reduction program, will fundamentally reduce the barriers for children who are often neglected and disregarded. Our program will identify disabled children (discovery phase); open markets for wheelchairs and create an enabling environment (development phase); count each child who gets a wheelchair (delivery phase); and document each community that receives a stigma reduction program. We will do this across all social, economic, ethnic, religious and tribal divisions to reach all types of children. Over 5 years, EPIC will not only change the life trajectory of thousands of disabled children, but transform hundreds of thousand families and communities in how they treat, manage and confront disability across 3 countries in eastern Africa. Once these children become mobile, go to school, participate in community, they will also free up caregiver time for alternate demands. The health and social returns of our intervention are obvious; and the economic returns high by converting “hidden” people to productive lives. As these disabled children grow, engage in social and economic activities, the benefits of our project will also grow over their lifetime; our solution will help unlock their potential as future teachers, workers and community leaders in Africa.

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