It’s amazing how quickly four years goes by. Motivation Australia is thrilled to have recently completed the Samoa Integrated Mobility Device Service (SIMDES) project which started in 2014.
It seems like yesterday that the Samoan National Health Service, Nuanua o le Alofa (Samoa’s national Disabled Person’s Organisation), the Australian High Commission in Apia and Motivation Australia imagined and planned a new mobility device service in Samoa. Back then, before the start of this project, people with disabilities had occasional access to a limited range of donated second hand wheelchairs from overseas, without the benefit of an individual assessment of their needs, a service to make repairs or replace parts when they wore out. Samoans with disabilities often found themselves in wheelchairs and assistive technology that did not fit and was not appropriate for their needs.
Fast forward to 2018, and the National Health Service has a new service, with local staff trained to provide wheelchairs, walking aids, prosthetic and orthotic devices. Users of the new service are extremely satisfied, the team have a client centred approach and involve people in the process of choosing their mobility device. The service is delivered from a purpose-built building, equipped with the tools and machinery needed by the skilled personnel to make individually fitted devices and repairs.
By the end of 2018, the service will have four Samoans trained in prosthetics and orthotics, capable of locally fabricating lower limb prostheses for the hundreds of diabetic amputees accessing the service.
1,367 Samoans have registered with the Mobility Device Service (MDS) since it began in November 2014 and were provided with 1,889 mobility devices by the end of May 2018. At the end of this project the MDS has the capacity to provide over 600 devices a year.
Motivation Australia couldn’t be happier with the outcome of this project and feels privileged to have been a part of something so important and needed by so many. The next step is for the Samoan Government to work with the Australian Government and donors like the Latter-day Saints Charities, to ensure that the service survives its next few years and builds towards being sustained long term.
It is really challenging for the health systems of small island developing nations in the Pacific to build the capacity of their Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology sector. The value of these services is often not widely understood within the health system, but always in great demand. In partnering in creating this service, the Samoan Government are taking their responsibilities under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities seriously.
The Australian Government along with funds raised from the Australian public enabled Motivation Australia to provide four years of technical assistance as well as the tools and equipment, materials, systems, skills training and mentoring required to help make this project happen and support this incredible service along the way.
Two evaluations of outcomes for service users show that people with disabilities, NCDs and the frail aged in Samoa are already experiencing increased mobility, participation, independence, self-esteem and confidence as a result of the new service. There is evidence of the increased participation of service users in many aspects of life and community, including attending school, social activities, church, employment and livelihoods.
Testament to these immediate outcomes for the people of Samoa can be seen in this short film by Weightless Films for Motivation Australia. It has been great working with Weightless Films on this video, a real celebration of our project success in Samoa!
The SIMDES project was funded by the Australian Aid Program through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) post Samoa. Motivation Australia is grateful for the assistance of the many individuals who have been involved in this project from the National Health Service, Nuanua O Le Alofa, and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) post Samoa. Thank you also to the Australian and overseas volunteers and students who contributed to the successful outcomes of the project. MA would particularly like to thank the staff of the Mobility Device Service and Diabetic Foot Clinic for their hard work and dedication, and our implementing team for their experience and diligence, without all of whom this project would not have been possible. The purpose built building that houses the new services, was funded by the Australian and New Zealand Governments, and the World Bank.
Motivation Australia also acknowledges the generous additional donations of finances, time and resources from a number of organisations; which combined added a tremendous amount of extra value to this project. Contributing organisations include – OSSUR, Orthopaedic Appliances Pty Ltd (OAPL), Royal Melbourne Hospital, Latter-day Saints Charities (LDSC), Wheelchairs for Kids, USAID funded Consolidating Logistics for Assistive Technology Supply and Provision, Andrew Todd and Rotary.
United Nations (2006) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). www.un.org