Filling a need for Ugandan survivors: Margaret Arach Orech on stump socks

Margaret Arach Orech is a landmines survivor and campaigner with the ICBL−CMC. Injured by a landmine in 1998, she founded the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (ULSA) in 2005 to focus on advocacy and victim assistance, becoming a humanitarian disarmament leader within international civil society as well as at home.

The 2018 Winter Paralympics gives viewers a look at the latest in prosthetic technology, seeing the mechanical support systems used by athletes that translate into amazing performances in their chosen sport. There is a more prosaic side to prosthetic use though, as Mines Action Canada learned talking to Margaret Arach Orech at the 20th anniversary States Party meeting in Vienna in December―stump socks!

A primer on stump socks

  • Stump socks need to be worn on your residual limb next to the skin to help protect it, and also to make your artificial limb more comfortable by providing cushioning and help absorbing perspiration.
  • A combination of sock, powder and cream prevent rubbing and bruising, and makes wearing a prosthetic more comfortable.
  • Mostly made of stretchy cotton, the thickness varies depending on the temperature ― i.e. whether a warm or cool climate.

What are the variables

  • While not difficult to obtain, the tricky part is getting them fitted properly. After all, the size of a person’s stump and sockets varies.
  • You need different weight socks depending on temperature variations.
  • Quality varies. Although local orthopedic centres bring in material to make them, this is not ideal.  The quality socks are produced in the UK and US by groups like Blatchford, a leading rehabilitation provider.
  • Quantity matters. Ideally a prosthetic wearer should have one dozen socks, which if properly cared for will last 3−4 years. They need to be washed daily and, particularly in hot weather, you really need two per day for maximum hygiene. 

Margaret’s experience

Part of normal rehabilitation for amputees, Margaret received a pair of stump socks when first fitted with a prosthetic in Uganda following her injury; they were handmade from rough material and uncomfortable.  After two years she was provided with better quality socks (one dozen) in the UK from Blatchford, which manufactures Endolite prosthetic products. These lasted Margaret up to four years.

Margaret’s action

For amputees in Uganda, distribution of quality stump socks is the challenge ULSA is addressing. ULSA maintains a database of survivors by region and disability category, and currently rents a vehicle and tours a region for one week distributing socks individually, knowing in advance the specific needs of the amputees.

Margaret’s plan

Margaret would like expand this needed work. If sufficient resources can be raised, ULSA’s target is to supply five socks per person, starting with about 150 survivors. Quality socks can be bought in Nairobi for about US$8−$10 each. A place in Kampala has been identified that can order quality cream and powder from Europe, but only for a large order.

The Walk without Fear Foundation would like to help Margaret meet her goals and her fellow survivors’ needs. With your support this Giving Tuesday, we can help.