The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Handicap International, in cooperation with Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Population, and partners specializing in treatment of disability, presented, on August 27th, professional certification to 50 Rehabilitation Technicians completing 2500 hours of instruction and to 22 Haitian Prosthetics and Orthotics Technicians, the first class to be trained in the country. The 22 specialists completed 2 and a half years of study to pass the International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics Exam early in 2015.
Training was conducted at Healing Hands for Haiti by Handicap International with instructors from El Salvador’s University of Don Bosco leading the prosthetics and orthotics training. Motivation-UK delivered training for prescribing and developing wheelchair services. The graduates will assist and treat disability and optimize the independence of persons living with disability.
Estimates of Haitians living with disabilities range around 700,000, including 4,000 estimated post-earthquake amputees. This segment of the population has typically been underserved; when the USAID and Handicap International program began only 23 physical therapists were identified in Haiti —and all had trained abroad.
To further build Haiti’s own capacity to serve a large proportion of the population living with disabilities, the USAID and Handicap International program also sponsored the development of a draft Rehabilitation Technician Standardized Curriculum for the Ministry of Health and Population’s Directorate for Training and Improvement in Health Sciences.
Expert advisors from Loma Linda University in California and from Health Volunteers Overseas helped with the creation of the draft which is now awaiting formal adoption by the Ministry. USAID Interim Mission Director Jock Conly speaking at the graduation ceremony said:
“Persons Living with Disabilities have an important contribution to make to the development of their communities and this nation. In fact, we know their exclusion has a negative impact on general economic and social development. At USAID, it is our policy to strive for the inclusion of disabled persons and children at schools, in political processes, in job training, as well as having access to services such as those provided by this new class of technicians”.