Access to orthopaedic care in Rwanda

Ottobock and UPHLS training healthcare workers in rural regions


The German company Ottobock and the Umbrella of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in the fight against HIV&AIDS and for Health Promotion (UPHLS) cooperating in a pilot project to strengthen access to orthopaedic care for people with physical disabilities in Rwanda. The project is supported by the Business Scouts for Development programme on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) in cooperation with the German Industry Association Spectaris and the East African Health Platform.

The implementing partners Ottobock and UPHLS will conduct 15 pieces of training for decentralized rural Health Centres to strengthen their role as entry points for people with physical disabilities and as intermediaries between patients and referral hospitals specialized in orthopaedic services. Additionally, UPHLS will organize five events to raise awareness of the shortcomings in the core infrastructure. To present an exemplary pilot UPHLS will furthermore select one rural Health Center where the project will contribute to a renovation for improved accessibility.

In comparison to other African countries, Rwanda is quite progressive in their support for people with physical disabilities. However, challenges in the general health infrastructure remain. One major problem is that the few referral hospitals specialising in orthopaedic care are located mainly in Kigali. That is why the project partners aim to strengthen the decentralized rural Health Centres.

The contribution of Ottobock – the worldwide leading innovator for prosthetics – in developing and conducting the training complements the company’s broader engagement in the country and the region. The training approach is to introduce a general concept about disability as well as provide information regarding available rehabilitation and orthopaedic services to enable the local health workers to respond to the specific needs of people with physical disabilities and purposefully refer them to specialized hospitals. In the first nine pieces of training, a total of 41 health workers were trained. In each Health Center, a minimum of three staff members participated including the Heads of the Center and relevant Departments.

The training also provides room to address general challenges concerning the care infrastructure for people with physical disabilities. These insights will add to the discussion at the five advocacy events organized by UPHLS. At four meetings on the provincial level, UPHLS will address local authorities and health practitioners to discuss the challenges on the ground. The activities will be completed with a national event on December 07th in Kigali which aims to approach political decision-makers and stakeholders from the health sector.