KATHMANDU, Nepal — It’s early, but the craftsman is already methodically running a grating tool over the model lower limb at his workstation. First with wood and now plaster, Sahila Kaiti has been carving limb prototypes to fit people with prosthetics in Kathmandu, Nepal, for 31 years. His job has changed dramatically in the last three decades — and not just due to the materials in his repertoire, he tells Devex. The work also garners him more respect in the community than it ever has before.
Join Devex on the ground as we capture photos and video of physiotherapy services in postquake Nepal.
Some of this shift likely resulted from Nepal’s 2015 earthquake, which injured 22,000 people and brought media attention to those who lost arms and legs when infrastructure collapsed.
But it can also be traced to the fact that the country is working toward more inclusive health care — where disabled persons groups are increasingly organized and policy adopted in 2017 encourages a rights-based approach to disability.
The workshop that Kaiti has spent his career in is attached to a physiotherapy unit, where patients such as 49-year-old Sarad Paudel are fitted for prosthetic limbs and taught how to use them. Paudel, whose left leg was crushed under the rubble of an office building during the earthquake, said his prosthetic now feels natural: “I don’t realize I don’t have my leg,” he tells Devex.
Other patients are referred to the unit — set up by international nonprofit Humanity & Inclusion with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development — to recover from accidents or receive regular care for conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. In Kathmandu, people with disabilities have access to a growing number of rehabilitation centers that can provide assistive devices or physiotherapy, which Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population identified as a basic health service in 2017.
But throughout the mountainous country, where 81 percent of the population is rural, a lack of rehabilitation centers combined with difficult geographical, financial, and personal barriers still regularly prohibit people with disabilities from getting the care they need.
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Editor's note: Humanity & Inclusion facilitated some of Devex's travel for this reporting. However, Devex maintains full editorial control of the content.
For more coverage on creating a disability-inclusive world, visit the Development Enabled series here.