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Causes of locomotor disability and need for orthopaedic devices in a heavily mined Taliban-controlled province of Afghanistan: issues and challenges for public health managers

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We conducted a locomotor disability survey on a heavily mined Taliban-controlled province of Afghanistan to document the problem of locomotor disability and to assess the need for orthopaedic rehabilitation devices in a study population of 12065. Global prevalence of locomotor disability was 23/1000 (95% CI: 20-26). War-related injuries were the leading cause of disability, affecting almost exclusively adult males. Leading causes of disability among women and children were medical and poliomyelitis. Devices most needed were lower limb ortheses (8.2 devices/1000 people; 95% CI: 5.9-10.4) and orthopaedic shoes (6.0/1000; 95% CI:4.1-8.0). The need for lower limb prostheses was less frequent (2.0/1000; 95% CI: 1.1-2.8). Most lower limb amputees (mainly victims of landmine injuries) were fitted with an artificial leg, while rehabilitation needs for other types of disability remained largely unmet. We estimated that it would take at least 3 years to provide enough orthopaedic shoes and 10 years for ortheses, whereas the need for lower limb prostheses could be met in less than 4 months. None of the 27 women with lower limb disability were equipped with an orthopaedic device, although this was the case for 31 of 89 men (35%). The problem of landmines should not divert attention from other causes of disability such as poliomyelitis or from other rehabilitation requirements. Immunization programmes and restoration of the public health infrastructure should be given high priority; rehabilitation services are largely insufficient and should be developed. Extreme gender difference in needs coverage is a matter of concern. Researching culturally sensitive strategies to tackle this problem should be a priority for donors and implementing agencies.

Keywords: Afghanistan; gender differences; health planning; land-mines; locomotor disability; needs assessment; orthopaedic devices; poliomyelitis; rehabilitation services; war; women health

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Epidemiology Unit, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium 2: Handicap International, Afghanistan 3: Handicap International, Belgium

Publication date: 1998-05-01

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