July 2nd was an exciting day for CURE Niger – the CURE Clubfoot program hosted the first ever National Symposium on Clubfoot in the country. It was held at the national stadium, and it was a great success. There were over 100 participants, and the event was well covered by the local media. The Symposium was officially opened by a representative of Niger’s First Lady (who is also a physician and surgeon), and overall many other doctors and others who work in the health sector were present. It was an opportunity for Brian Van Hall, our Executive Director to share a bit about the Clubfoot program, but also about the CURE hospital and CURE in general. Everyone present was invited to come and visit the hospital.
The Symposium was timed to coincide with the visit of Dr. Theuri, who is the Medical Director of the CURE hospital in Kijabe, Kenya. Dr. Theuri was one of 3 surgeons who came to Niger this summer, to help cover for Dr. Negrini while he was away on vacation, and we thought it made sense to have our symposium on clubfoot during his stay, since he has played such a big role in the Clubfoot program in Kenya.
We also had Professor Sunna, a Nigerien Orthopedist at the National Hospital (Lamordé) here in Niamey. He gave a lecture on clubfoot and the Ponseti Method, and it was great to have his participation as well. One of the 10 clubfoot clinics in the program is at Lamordé, and they do a great job. All of the 10 clinics were represented at the Symposium, and we were able to hear from the team from the clinic in Maradi, who has also been very successful at recruiting patients. They were able to share some of the lessons they have learned along the way. We also heard from Pastor Hassane, who serves as the Counselling Coordinator for the program, and who spoke about the importance of the counsellors, who serve as patient advocates and are able to advise the parents of the children and walk with them throughout the course of their treatment.
Moutari Malam-Saddi, our national Clubfoot Coordinator did a great job organizing the Symposium, and helped moderate a lively discussion on the sustainability of the program and the future direction it needs to take. All were in agreement that the different actors in the health sector, and especially the Ministry of Public Health, need to be more involved in the program if we are to truly reach our goal of providing treatment for clubfoot to every child born with the disability. Some suggestions were to begin including the Ponseti Method in the curriculum for all medical students and nurses, and to continue to train health care professionals on clubfoot treatment. Overall it was very encouraging to see so many of Niger’s health care workers so involved in the discussion and dedicated to reaching the maximum number of patients through healing.
We also got to see a demonstration of the effectiveness of the treatment, as a football match and race was held with some former patients of the program. It was amazing to see them run, and exciting for them to have a chance to run on the grass at the national stadium. Who knows, maybe some of them will grow up to play for Niger’s national team!
Here is a short news clip covering the Symposium, as well as some pictures (courtesy of Fanny Franceschi).