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Miracle Feet

Clubfoot is among the world's most common birth defects, affecting one in every 800 babies, yet it is a condition that many in the West have never seen. This is because, in countries with advanced health systems, it is quickly and easily treated soon after birth. In the Global South, however, the condition is routinely left unaddressed, leading to lifelong disability and social and economic marginalisation.

Every two minutes a child is born with clubfoot, a deformity in which one or both feet are twisted inwards at the ankle. Around the world, there are now nearly 8 million people living with untreated clubfoot.

For decades, intrusive and often unsuccessful surgery was seen as the only method to cure the condition. For most of those in developing nations without the money or access to trained surgeons, that meant there was little choice but to learn to live as best they could with their disability. Only recently, after years of resistance from the surgical profession, has a type of non-surgical treatment known as the Ponseti method been adopted as the preferred treatment.

The Ponseti method, which relies primarily on using plaster casts and foot-abduction braces to straighten out the feet, has opened up the possibility of treatment for hundreds of thousands whose clubfoot would otherwise have become a debilitating disability. The challenge now is to reach the areas where the treatment is most needed.

This story follows the work of Ponseti practitioners in Zimbabwe and Cambodia as they work to combat clubfoot in their countries.
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