Geckos - COPE (Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise)
COPE works throughout Laos providing essential services to people with disabilities - more than half of whom have been injured by UXO. They are the only provider of prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation services in Laos. Established by POWER International in 1997, COPE is a joint venture between the Ministry of Health and a number of non-government organisations.
Many of these bombs and other devices did not explode at the time. So, even though the war ended in 1975, the country is still littered with a significant amount of UXO's (unexploded ordnance) which also contributes to poverty, hunger and disability on a daily basis.
The last national census identified 57,000 people with a physical disability in Laos but the figures do not tell the whole story. COPE have done village level surveys in the three provinces where they do outreach work. There they have found that there is a very low knowledge within the community of what services and assistance is available. The surveys have helped to bring out more requests for assessment, but COPE know that the huge need is a long way short of being met.
Rehabilitation is vital to ensure that people with disabilities are able to play active roles in their families and the wider community. COPE is working to develop Physiotherapy skills and has an extensive in service training and mentoring programme which this year will include a specialist in paediatrics. COPE works to ensure that those who cannot afford to pay receive a free rehabilitation service. An outreach programme began in 2009 to ensure that all sectors of the community are aware of their rights to access a free service, including transportation and related costs as poverty is often a barrier to access. COPE provides over 1200 devices every year, 400 wheelchairs, and other rehabilitation support.
The visitor centre opened in 2007 and provides visitors with the opportunity to understand the impact of UXO on Lao PDR, issues related to disability in developing countries and the work of the COPE project. It is a vital part of COPE's sustainability strategy to educate and raise funds. Some international funding is received, including from AUS AID but private donations are critical. Donations received through Geckos will help COPE expand the reach of their work, particularly in identifying patients and enabling their access to treatment and services.