COPE Connect is an initiative working to literally ‘spread the word’. Little is known in Lao PDR about the situation of people with disabilities. The most recent National Census in 2005 recorded 45,000 people in the country with physical disability. Little else has been researched about the situation and it is believed that the latests figures are inaccurate and that the level of disability is under reported. What is known however is that the majority of people with disabilities live in rural areas of the country, often in very poor conditions, where access to medical services is either limited or non-existent. In addition, people with disabilities living in remote rural parts of Lao PDR know little of the services that are available for them. COPE Connect aims to inform people of the services available and to support them in receiving the treatment they need.
The COPE Connect team is working to establish networks with provincial health departments, district health offices, district hospitals, village and community health workers, Lao Disabled People’s Associations members, and non-government health projects. In establishing the networks, COPE is training people to identify different disabilities and physical problems, particularly where mobility devices or rehabilitation services could help the individual. The aim of the network is to identify people who need physical rehabilitation or mobility devices and refer them to COPE for assessment.
Once the network has been established a medical team, which includes a doctor, prosthetist/orthotist and district hospital staff, invites people to the district hospital for assessment. At this time, the medical team assesses whether COPE and the CMR are able to help each individual. For those who cannot afford it, COPE covers the costs associated with transportation to the assessment. This helps to overcome one of the primary barriers restricting access to treatment: the cost. In some locations our team have assessed over 100 people in one day!
In addition, if people are unable to afford further treatment, COPE will also cover the cost of all transportation, accommodation and the services provided.
This project is currently operating in eight provinces.