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Steps – the NPO treating clubfoot

Clubfoot is treatable, why aren’t more SA families accessing care?

The  3rd March was  World Birth Defects Day. Many aren’t aware, but clubfoot is the most common musculoskeletal birth defect, affecting millions of children worldwide.

Despite the condition being completely treatableaccessing treatment remains a significant challenge for families in resource-restricted countries like South Africa. In addition to access,  STIGMA is also a huge challenge.  The Eastern Cape has one the highest incidences of the condition in the country.

Every year, around 2000 babies are born with clubfoot in South Africa and an additional ± 3,000 in neighbouring countries. Without intervention, these children may struggle to walk, leading to potential disability. Early and effective treatment opens the door to a future where every child can walk, run, and play like their peers.

We are on a mission to ensure no child with clubfoot is left untreated, offering each one the brightest possible future. We believe in unlocking doors to a life filled with potential.

Visit our website to explore how you can get involved and help every child receive the treatment they deserve at https://steps.org.za/get-involved/?utm_source=fb_page...

Founder and CEO of Steps, Karen Moss says, “We operate on the basis that 2 out of every 1000 children will be born with clubfoot.  However, a high rate of this congenital condition is just one aspect of the challenges South Africa faces. Clubfoot is a treatable birth defect.  Early intervention can avoid costly surgical treatments, ensure that children can thrive and prevent lifelong disability.”

What is clubfoot?

Clubfoot develops in the womb and babies born with the condition have one or both feet fixed in a downward and inward position. Left untreated, a child will not be able to walk properly and will experience chronic pain, muscle wasting in the legs and progressive degeneration of joints.  On the other hand, most families that start prompt treatment using the Ponseti Method, the non-surgical global gold standard, have excellent outcomes.

Lifelong disability can be avoided

Karen says, “Aside from clubfoot, most patients are healthy babies. Studies have shown that clubfoot is successfully corrected in over 90% of cases using successive plaster casts and maintenance bracing as the baby develops.  In most of these cases, children can walk, run, dance, and play as they grow up into able, contributing citizens.  Therefore, becoming progressively disabled and living in pain due to clubfoot is completely preventable.  While we can’t change the prevalence of clubfoot, there’s still so much that we can do to increase access to effective treatment for all South African families.”

In its advocacy for clubfoot treatment, Steps identifies lack of awareness and stigma, as well as lack of access to treatment in local healthcare facilities. This, as well as economic factors as significant barriers for families.  Karen adds, “Clubfoot treatment requires frequent, time-bound visits to healthcare facilities to change the casts and monitor progress as the infant grows.  It’s heartbreaking that so many South African families, particularly in the rural and resource-restricted areas simply don’t have the money to transport their babies to a clinic on a regular basis.”

In 2023, Steps supported 4,703 children with 1,162 new patients enrolled across 40 partner clinics in South Africa. However, this is only around half of the estimated 2,295 new cases annually in South Africa. 

The highest number of patients occupying the Steps clinics are in Gauteng, followed by KZN, and Eastern Cape.