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The East African : Feb 2nd 2015
30 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK JANUARY 31 - FEBRUARY 6, 2015 S CI E N C E Uganda starts ‘printing’ of 3D prosthetic limbs CoRSU wo≥ks with a cha≥ity to give child≥en 3D a≥tificial limbs By EVELYN LIRRI Special Correspodent T en-year-old John Lomuria would ordinarily be a school- going boy, but he is not. A fire in 2010 left him disabled with his right leg amputated above the knee. Lomuria hails from the cattle-keeping Karamoja subregion of northeastern Uganda, and has been spending most of his time watching over the family’s kraal. In the company of his caretak- er Gabriel Lorupe, he travelled to the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services hospital in Uganda (CoRSU), a specialised health facility for children with disabilities in Kampala, where he will acquire a prosthetic leg. Lomuria is one of the pioneer beneficiaries of the 3D printing technology to make artificial limbs now being used at Corsu, courtesy of Christian Blind Mission (CBM), a Canadian charity. The charity has partnered with researchers from the University of Toronto and Autodesk, a 3D-design company, to make cheap, customised 3D-printed prosthetic limbs for children. Before the adoption of this technology, the process of making prosthetic limbs was manual and time-consuming, following the International Red Cross and Red Crescent formula, which involves using plaster of paris that is wrapped around a plastic mould, then waiting for it to dry and harden. After it dries, the plaster is used as a negative cast to make a positive cast of a limb. Then a socket is moulded THE STATISTICS A 3D printed prosthetic limb being made at CoRSU hospital in Uganda Picture: File around the positive cast before it is ready for use. “This method is labour-inten- Now health officials will ensure that protection is sustained by routinely immunising infants.” Marie-Pierre Préziosi, director of the Vaccine Project sive. Patients will typically wait for at least one week before they can get an artificial limb. Another problem with using this method is that it often results in ill-fitting sockets, which cause discomfort for users,” said Mitch Wilkie, the director of international programmes at CBM, whose team was in Kampala last week to install the new technology. Using a 3D-print, on the other hand, allows for a quick scan to digitise the limb. “In less than a minute, the computer can capture a 3D image of the patients’ residual limb. This image can then be manipulated by the prosthetic technician to recreate a 3D image within a computer interface, a process that takes just about 30 minutes,” explained Mr Wilkie. “The image is then exported to a 3D printer, which can produce the socket in about three hours. If you look at the whole spectrum — the scanning, software manipulation and 3D-printing — it can all bedone in one day.” Prof Matt Rato from the Uni- versity of Toronto, the principal investigator for the 3D project, says the ultimate goal of shifting to 3D-printed limbs is to speed up the process through which prosthetic limbs are made across the world. “We want to shorten the time to one or two days. With newly Prosthetic limbs are replaced every six to one year in children, and between every three and five years for adults. If a child loses a limb at the age of 10, they will need approximately 25 limbs in their lifetime. Adults on the other hand, may require between 15 and 20 limbs during their lifetime. The lifespan of a limb depends on the environment in which the person lives In Uganda, an artificial limb costs between Ush500,000 ($177.1) and Ush1million ($354.3), depending on the extent of disability. available, inexpensive 3D scanning technologies, it is possible to recreate the manual process within a digital environment,” he said. Limb amputations, espe- cially in developing countries are largely attributed to the effects of landmines in conflict or former conflict areas, severe bone infections, accidents and birth defects. This has led to an increase in demand for prosthetic limbs, whilemanpower to deal with the problem remains a challenge. According to the World Health Organisation, there is an estimated shortfall of 40,000 prosthetic technicians in the developing world. In Uganda, there are about 12 prosthetic technicians for the more than 250,000 children in need of such devices. This problem, according to Malcolm Simpson, who heads the CoRSU hospital in Kampala, can be partly addressed once the 3D technology is made available across the country. A prosthetic replacement is needed typically every six to 12 months for children, and every three to five years for adults. For example, if a child loses a limb at the age of 10, they will need approximately 25 limbs in their lifetime. Adults on the other hand, may require between 15 and 20 limbs during their lifetime. But how long a prosthetic limb lasts also depends on the environment in which a person lives. “We normally use plastic materials to make these limbs. If a person using them has to walk several kilometres every day or has to tend to the garden, it means they may have to change their prosthesis more frequently,” saidAbdullah Issa, an orthopedic technician at CoRSU. In Uganda, an artificial limb costs between Ush500,000 ($177.1) and Ush1 million ($354.3), depending on the extent of a person’s disability. Smallholde≥ fa≥me≥s to benefit f≥om new mobile app By ELIZABETH MERAB Special Correspondent SMALLHOLDER FARMERS in the East Africa will soon be able to track movement of their produce from warehouses. They will also be able to interact with traders and bankers through a mobile phone application launched by the East African Grain Council. The trading platform, dubbed G-Soko, will be used to automate certified warehouses and link them to a transactional e-trade platform that will involve agents within the supply chain. The technology launched bythe Grain Council in partnership with FoodTrade East and Southern Africa (ESA) was one of two other investment projects that aim at enhancing the regional staple foods trade. One major reason for food inse curity in this East Africa is poor exchange of food across the region, with smallholder farmers lacking markets for their produce. However, technology in the re- gion is changing the face of agriculture, including reducing post-harvest losses. Market information systems that focus on farmers and traders in the region are being developed by governments and private investors. Speaking last week at the launch of the application, EAGC executive director Gerald Masila said that there was a need to address market barriers that hinder regional trade. “There is a need to explore IT in agriculture if we want to address food security. We’ll be able to address barriers to regional trade particularly around a formalised grain trading system, use of improved grades and standards for grain farmers and access to and use of real time market information,” said Mr Masila. The three-year project, which kicked off in December last year in Kenya, has so far brought on board five banks and 10 warehouses that operate in the region. It has also had a funding boost of Ksh150 million ($1.6 million) which will go to credit against warehouse receipts. “This technology facilitates access to all stock and grades at any $1.6 million The money given to the EastAfrican Grain Council to boost the project one time. It has the potential to match buyers with sellers across the region. However, there is also a need to develop a one-point border post to smoothen cross-border trade,” added Mr Masila. FoodTrade ESA is a five-year regional trade enhancement and promotion initiative funded by the United Kingdom to improve food security in nine countries of East and Southern Africa by working with businesses to improve the markets for staple food crops. G-Soko is, however, not the first information and communication service for the agricultural market. Rwanda has rolled out e-soko, to keep farmers and traders informed about the prices of agricultural produce through the use of mobile phones and Internet. The Kenya Agriculture Com- modity Exchange launched the use of Soko Hewani, a radio programme to enable farmers to sell or buy, lease or rent agricultural products, properties and services. India’s E-choupal Kiosk operates in over 40,000 Indian villages to serve approximately four million farmers. The system tackles the challenges of Indian agriculture, which is characterised by fragmented farms, weak infrastructure and the involvement of middlemen who swindle smallholder farmers. In 2009, Sri Lanka introduced the Tradenet System to reduce the costs incurred by small farmers related to information search during the agricultural value chain. The system has so far reduced farmers’ vulnerability to price vulnerability and dependency on middlemen.
Jan 26th 2015
Feb 9th 2015