RED International’s partner, Operation Mercy is providing much needed fully serviced quality wheelchairs to people with disabilities in Tajikistan.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in most countries approximately 1% of the population is in need of a wheelchair. In Tajikistan, that is over 80,000 people, with about 22,000 of those in the northern Sughd Region alone. Imported chairs from Russia and/or China are distributed more or less randomly, without quality service provision (prescription, fitting, user training, follow up), and there are no specialised chairs for children under 12. Most recipients only receive one chair in their lifetime.
Operation Mercy believes that best practice wheelchair provision includes full service provision as outlined by WHO, and this can be achieved in Tajikistan. This helps reduce future injury to the recipient through poor prescription and training. They also provide other assistive devices, such as corner chairs and walkers to adults and children.
Potential Long Term Impact
The project hopes to provide a small amount of much-needed employment to people who are currently either unemployed or work as migrants, some of these could be disabled themselves or parents of disabled children.
Wheelchair users are visible in the streets, which effects the attitudes towards disability throughout the whole of society, as people see people with disabilities working, shopping, going to school, attending events, and being active members of the community. It is hoped that the people will begin to value them and include them more and more in the life of the community as they see their capabilities.
On an individual level, wheelchair access provides users with mobility and independence, improving self-esteem, hope, education or work opportunities; as well as improving their lifestyle and the lifestyle of their family.