An important milestone was reached last week in Samoa….the number of clients who have received a wheelchair, walking aid, prosthetic or orthotic device from the newly established Mobility Device Service at TTM hospital in Apia, passed 1,000! Congratulations to the Samoan service staff who work so hard to deliver these services.
As a development organisation, our focus is on creating longer term solutions that are as sustainable as possible. We could go to Samoa and provide 1,000 mobility devices ourselves, and it would probably be quicker, cheaper and easier. If this was a natural disaster situation, that’s exactly what would happen. Aid organisations have to distribute as many supplies as possible in the short term, because their focus is on saving lives in an emergency.
However our focus is on building the capacity of the local team, and they in turn go on providing the products and services to their people, long after our team has left. 1,000 people is a great milestone for the team in Samoa to have reached after three years of the project (and we’re very proud of them) but what is even more important is that they now have the capacity to see over 600 people EVERY YEAR.
Now that the building blocks of the service are in place, the challenge for the National Health Service of Samoa will be keeping this service going. On-going funding for materials and devices will still be a challenge, even though we’ve established the service to use good quality, but low cost, appropriate technology, mobility products.
During the project we have been lucky to attract some really valuable donations from a range of organisations. If their generous support can be continued, then this will get the service part way to having the supplies they need. However on-going funding will be needed from the Government and probably international donors, until a sustainable system is achieved. It is encouraging that there are good examples out there of countries which provide disability specific services funded by Government insurance schemes.
Just over seven months of the project remain. The emphasis has shifted into handing over all aspects of the running of the service to the NHS. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners at the NHS to ensure that the Mobility Device Service has a solid foundation on which to build in the years to come. The Samoa MDS team will join their peers from across the Pacific, in becoming part of a growing sector in the region.
Fa’afetai lava to the Samoan National Health Service, the Australian Aid programme, Nuanua O Le Alofa, Disability Advocacy Organisation in Samoa and MWCSD for their continued support for this much needed service.