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HI innovation restores hope in Uganda: Hakim walks thanks to 3D technology


Humanity & inclusion (HI) is using telemedicine and 3D printing to provide physical rehabilitation services for refugees. This work not only helps to improve mobility, it restores hope! 

Hakim during the fitting of his 3D printed orthosis in Omugo settlement, Uganda

Hakim during the fitting of his 3D printed orthosis in Omugo settlement, Uganda | © HI 2020

Hakim had lost all hope

When a member of HI’s psychosocial support team first met Hakim, his outlook was distressing:

“I do not think this life is worth living. With these impairments, I cannot take care of myself, I cannot bath, I cannot participate in meetings, I cannot visit friends. I would be better off dead.”

Hakim lives in a refugee settlement in northern Uganda where accessing basic services and information can be very difficult for people with disabilities. HI has been working in the settlements since 2017 and provides different kinds of support to improve quality of life.

Months of hard work with HI

Hakim and his family were accompanied by a physiotherapist and a psychosocial worker. Together, they worked on physical exercises to help improve his mobility and independence and both Hakim and his carers received counselling to relieve the stress and anxiety felt by the whole family. 

Four months of hard work saw a steady improvement in Hakim’s ability to move around his home and less need for physical support from others. However, he was still unable to walk more than a few steps and remained confined to his home. Hakim needed a lower leg support to progress further. This would usually require a long and prohibitively expensive journey to a rehabilitation centre in the capital city but HI is using the very latest technology to provide these services in remote places.

A high-tech solution

Hakims leg was scanned not far from his home using a portable kit comprised of a tablet computer and a structure sensor. The 3D scan was remotely modified by an expert to generate a computer modified model of his made-to-measure splint. The splint was then produced by HI’s 3D printers in the nearest small town and brought back to Hakim by his physiotherapist.

Two 3D printers at HI's office in Arua, Uganda

 “My life has greatly changed ever since HI started working with me” says Hakim ‘The orthosis has greatly improved my walking … I never imagined I would be able to walk for more than a kilometer! I can go to the hospital on my own, I participate in community meetings and my voice is heard!” 

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 in 2020, HI’s 3D rehabilitation team has reached more than 82 people like Hakim in Uganda’s refugee settlements.  Each has their own story of restored independence and renewed hope. 

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