J717N Plaster House/Rehabilitative Surgery Program

Tanzania, Africa

The Situation

The latest Tanzanian Population and Housing Census (2012) indicates that 9.3% of the Tanzanian population aged over 7 identify with a disability. Of those with a disability 975,076 cannot walk. The census found that most people with disability (0-14 years and 65 years or above) cannot fend for themselves and most of them live in rural areas with little or no access to services and support. Generally, the proportion of children with disabilities attending school is low. The census concluded that the problem of disability in the country could be effectively mitigated overtime through the introduction of early intervention services. Lack of early intervention services exacerbates the problem of disability.  

The general picture generated by the results of 2012 Population and Housing Census indicates that, persons with disability were disadvantaged across indicators: education, employment, health care and rehabilitation services and provisions. (The United Republic of Tanzania, Disability Monograph, National Bureau of Statistics Ministry of Finance.

Many of the patients treated at The Plaster House are Massai. Life for a Maasai with a disability is particularly problematic as there is a strong belief that a disability is caused by a negative supernatural experience. Throughout history there has been a practice of killing and hiding mentally and physically impaired people. The Massai Tribe of Africa have routinely rid themselves of what they considered to be a burden to their community (Davis, 1995). Whether it was death, sterilisation, or limitations in jobs and education, the individual with a disability has faced and still faces prejudice and discrimination.

In Tanzania, children with correctable disabilities are often hidden from the view of others, they are the children not attending school, and without treatment they will grow up to be a burden on their community.

An outreach program works to change this. This project seeks to educate people about children living with treatable disabilities – that there is a place for treatment to be provided in an affordable manner. We are utilising existing governmental, organisational and community structures to change this perception, and increase patient recruitment into the surgical program.

The Objectives

  1. To provide a nurturing home and access to corrective surgery for 500+ children annually with no patient turned away that can be treated. 
  2. The Plaster House project restores life and hope to children and their families by correcting their disability, so they can lead a full and functional life. 

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