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Amputation is a worldwide epidemic that affects millions of people, especially in developing nations

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Amputation, the severance of biological limbs, is an often lifesaving solution to an array of complications. The leading reasons to amputate include vascular diseases (e.g. diabetes), traffic accidents, severe burns, leprosy, and consequences of war, such as land mine detonation, gunshots, etc. Removal of an appendage is, in most cases, a last resort option when keeping the limb would result in death. The World Health Organization estimates over 40 million amputees live in developing nations. This affected population is expected to double by 2050 as the quality of life increases in these countries.

 

Unfortunately amputation can severely handicap one who undergoes such a procedure. Amputees around the world report difficulty maintaining a job, struggles in social environments, and living life to the fullest. Furthermore the accessibility of prosthetics greatly impacts amputees' lives. Those in developing nations who can get an artificial limb are more likely to sustain a job, trump certain social stigmas, and regain much of their lives back. Upwards of 90% of amputations in some countries are lower-limb. In nations where jobs are labor-intensive, locomotion handicaps significantly hinder amputees.

Currently only 5% have access to a prosthetic limb, meaning that over 30 million amputees face the aforementioned complications associated with not having a custom-fit limb, a necessity for every amputee. This poor accessibility is influenced by several factors.

 

One major contributor is the cost of the devices. Although some of these countries' economies are beginning to boom, many of their citizens lack the funds to acquire and replace the prosthetics. The average prosthetic leg in such countries costs between $125 and $1500, depending on the country. With an average durability of 18 months, the lifetime cost of being an amputee is still rather insurmountable and deters many from walking again after their operation.

 

Another factor is the journey needed to visit a skilled prosthetist to receive a custom-fit solution. Since leg stumps are responsible for bearing so much weight, a custom-fit socket is necessary or else the amputee will develop sores and abrasions, resulting in them not wearing the artificial limb. Because no two stumps are exactly the same, a trained technician must craft a leg specific to an individual. From the most technologically advanced to the most makeshift, a skilled artisan is involved in the manufacturing process.

Many perils exist in making the voyage to the clinic. The roads are treacherous and are home to the majority of traffic accidents worldwide. Passenger regulations are nonexistent, leading to travelers riding atop trains and hanging between cars. Since these clinics are so scattered, the travel costs can necessitate an amputee to save for months to years. Mobile clinics staffed with volunteers from developed nations exist but fit only a small number of amputees.

 

Furthermore prosthetists are far and few between in these nations. The World Health Organization speculates that in order for every amputee to be treated, the industry is 40,000 shy of the number of prosthetists needed. For perspective, the WHO suggests that only 18,000 prosthetists will be trained in the next  50 years; therefore the sheer amount of amputees in the world is unable to be addressed.

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