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Rehabilitation Center Groundbreaking Opportunity for Disabled Haitians

A state-of-the-art outpatient rehabilitation clinic and prosthetics center was inaugurated Tuesday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, marking a new phase in progress to assist the city’s thousands of amputees, many of whom were disabled by the January 2010 earthquake.

The center, operated by Healing Hands for Haiti (HHH) with support in part from the American Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other members of the global Red Cross network, is a welcome and highly anticipated resource.

More than 5,000 people lost limbs following the 7.0 magnitude quake that collapsed buildings and homes and killed more than 300,000 people. Support from the ICRC Special Fund for the Disabled, to which the American Red Cross contributed more than $1.3 million specifically for the Port-au-Prince clinic, will provide prosthetic devices for 1,000 people and rehabilitation services for 3,000 people.

With just one physician and 40 staff members for the entire operation, including a prosthesis workshop operated with partner organization Handicap International, Riché Zamor, executive director of the center, anticipates a substantial workload, even though initial capacity for the prosthetics department is limited to lower limbs.

Many patients will receive referrals from local physicians for rehabilitation sessions at the center, but walk-ins are also welcome. It is difficult to estimate a specific number of patients that will be seen within any given time frame though, because the time to create and fit each individual prosthesis depends on a variety of factors, including type of material, length of limb or place of amputation, and patient health, says François Blaise, an ortho-prosthetist for the ICRC Special Fund for the Disabled.

“Patients will be able to come here for all of their prosthetic needs, from start to finish. For a piece to work correctly, it’s important for each prosthesis to be fitted and adjusted as healing progresses, so we’re excited about what this center will mean for so many people throughout their rehabilitation,” says Blaise.

The earthquake destroyed Healing Hands’ previous location, which is still partly visible on the hill above the new spacious clinic grounds. Zamor also shared that once the land was donated for the construction of the new building, the group’s original dream for a rehabilitation hospital was adapted to the current outpatient clinic design, providing for a potential expansion to include an inpatient wing.

In addition to providing outpatient and prosthesis assistance, the center also serves as a training facility to educate local physical therapy and prosthetics students.

Jordanie Derulus, a 10-year-old orphaned by the January 2010 earthquake, tests out his new prosthetic leg from Healing Hands for Haiti. "I can kick a soccer ball again, and walk! It's a wonderful thing," he said. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross. The new, state-of-the art Healing Hands for Haiti prosthetics center and rehabilitation clinic in Port-au-Prince was inaugurated on May 22, 2012. The American Red Cross contributed more than $1.3 million to the project.