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In India, cheap prostheses put amputees back on their feet

Ⓒ AFP – CHANDAN KHANNA – | An Indian learns to walk with prostheses in Jaipur capital of the state of Rajasthan (northern India), June 13, 2017

It is an Indian specialty that has spread to Africa: prosthesis as ingenious as rudimentary, which cost barely 50 euros and re-establish thousands of amputees for decades.

When he lost his forearms and legs by electrocuting himself, Vishnu Kumar believed his life was damn.

But this young Indian is getting ready to be posed one of these legendary prostheses, fruits of the resourcefulness of this country, far from the usual solutions to several thousand euros.

“I was crushed thinking that I was going to spend the rest of my life on crutches,” said Vishnu, 22, fighting his tears before fitting his new prosthesis in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state (North of India).

Ⓒ AFP – CHANDAN KHANNA – | About 10 million Indians live with some form of disability. The show of crippled beggar at a red light is common in this nation of 1.25 billion inhabitants

“These members give me new hope,” said the electrician, who lost his family in an accident during a high voltage operation.

About 10 million Indians live with some form of disability. The sight of crippled beggar at a red light is common in this nation of 1.25 billion inhabitants.

– Everyday life –

Launched more than forty years ago, in 1975, the “Jaipur feet” became famous and marketed well beyond the borders of the country, Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands … Since the beginning of Production, 25,000 prostheses have been sold.

Ⓒ AFP – CHANDAN KHANNA – | An Indian helps his wife walk with a new prosthesis in Jaipur, northern India, on June 13, 2017

The “feet of Jaipur” are produced every day at low cost by a small charity.

Made mainly of plastic, this prosthesis is adapted to the needs of everyday life in India, a society still very rural: working in the fields, squatting to defecate, sitting cross-legged on the ground …

Using industrial manufacturing processes, “the technology we use allows us to make a member very, very quickly,” explains Devendra Raj Mehta, the octhomenary founder of Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), the organization behind the Jaipur “.

Ⓒ AFP – CHANDAN KHANNA – | Launched more than forty years ago, in 1975, the “feet of Jaipur” became famous and marketed well beyond the borders of India, Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands

This patented model allows ankle movement. Unlike most prostheses, it can be worn without shoes, an advantage in this country where temples and mosques require to be barefoot within them.

With the wear, the artificial leg deforms. It can then be changed free of charge.

“It’s my fourth leg and I did not have to spend a penny. It’s like changing shoes,” said Rajkumar Saini, 50, who lost a leg in a car accident. Is thirteen years old.

– 3D printing –

These prostheses adapt to technological advances with always the same slogan: frugality.

Ⓒ AFP – CHANDAN KHANNA – | The “feet of Jaipur” are produced every day at low cost by a small charity

In partnership with the American University of Stanford, its creators have developed an artificial nylon knee able to lubricate itself, quoted by the American magazine Time as one of the 50 most important inventions on the planet.

Its cost? Barely 17 euros, when artificial knees are billed 10,000 dollars in the United States.

Jaipur is also trying to manufacture artificial hands thanks to 3D printing.

But for BMVSS, the financial situation, which depends on donations, remains a constant challenge. Its founder Devendra Raj Mehta is nevertheless optimistic.

“I firmly believe that if even 1% of people in this country or in the world feel compassion, we will survive.”

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