Due to the increasing rate of amputations, there is an ever-growing demand for prosthetic limbs. Next to an immediate need for a person’s initial prosthetic limb, multiple replacement limbs and repairs are necessary over a lifetime. For children, a prosthetic replacement is needed typically every 6-12 months. Adults need such a replacement every 3-5 years. This means that youngsters may need around 25 limbs throughout the course of their life, whilst adults will use up to 20 limbs (Prosthetics Outreach Foundation, 2005).

Lack of trained personell
One of the main problems in providing prosthetic limbs to developing countries is the lack of trained personnel. The proper constructing, fitting, aligning, and adjusting of a prosthetic limb requires high levels of expertise. However, there are very few training programs in low-income countries in this area. Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that while the current supply of technicians falls short by approximately 40.000, it will take about 50 years to train just 18.000 more skilled professionals (Walsh 2003).

 

Suitability
Furthermore, importing components from industrialized countries is expensive. And often the parts are designed for a Western lifestyle. They usually do not meet the challenges of rural environments and a farm-based existence in a tropical climate. In such living-conditions, conventional limbs made of wood and resin only have a lifespan of about 18 months.

 

Costs
In developing countries, many limb deficient people are farmers, herdsman, nomads or refugees who rely on physical labor for survival. Thus, having affordable and readily available prosthetic limbs is essential. Unfortunately, a prosthesis is very costly. A typical limb made in a developing country costs approximately $125 to $1,875 USD. Our project aims at cutting the costs to as little as $41 USD (well below the $5,000-$15,000 USD average cost for a prosthesis in the western world). However, the costs over a lifetime of replacements and maintenance can still amount to thousands of dollars. This presents a major problem since the average family income in rural areas is typically around $300 USD annually. It can take them over a decade to earn the money for an initial prosthesis (Walsh, 2003).