The Sierra Leone Orthotics & Prosthetics Program

Adikalie Kamara

We've designed a health system strengthening model  to support and expand the prosthetic and orthotic sector that cares for people with disabilities.

The MIT Program to Strengthen Orthotics & Prosthetics Care in Sierra Leone is a multi-phase effort to establish, expand and sustain O&P medical service delivery in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The Program seeks to execute on a comprehensive strategy  to transform care for persons with disabilities across the nation of Sierra Leone, whilst empowering members of this same community to become critically-needed clinicians and leaders. 

Partnering with the Ministry of Health, local clinics and disabled communities, our goal is to improve capacity, multiply production of prosthetic and orthotic devices, and deliver care to patients in hard to reach areas across the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Our Story

Due to a civil war ending in the early 2000s, many Sierra Leoneans were injured or became disabled from violence, displacement and inability to access safe and healthy living environments. Immediately after the conflict, Sierra Leone received an influx of international support to rehabilitate and care for people needing prosthetic and orthotic devices. However, as time progressed, many short-term aid and relief efforts shifted their focus to emergencies elsewhere, and the dearth of orthotic and prosthetic service capabilities grew.

In the present day, the orthotic and prosthetic sector in Sierra Leone is equipped with just one fully-trained clinician, an unpredictable flow of supplies,  and with clinics lacking adequate power and tools. Sierra Leone is home to over fifty-thousand persons with disabilities who need medical orthotic braces and prosthetic limbs, but care is severely limited.

Enabled by the K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics, our team  has taken on the challenge of using problem-solving, design thinking, global health knowledge and engineering to work together with partners from the Ministry of Health and from communities of disabled Sierra Leoneans to strengthen this sector. Our goal is to catalyze change in the prosthetic and orthotic sector to permanently improve prosthetic and orthotic care for persons with disabilities across Sierra Leone.

Our Methods

We accomplish this by using an innovative approach called the SITE model, which establishes the foundation for a strong O&P sector:

Supply Chain

Development of a supply chain that enables clinics in Sierra Leone to procure commercially-available, low-cost components for the fabrication of high-quality O&P medical devices.


Renovations to two clinics (National Rehabilitation Center in Freetown and Bo clinic in Bo) to permit full functionality from patient treatment and rehabilitation to custom medical device fabrication.


Prescription of safe, low-cost, culturally-appropriate and efficacious O&P components and materials that enable patients in Sierra Leone to be protected from unsafe medical devices.


Educating eleven new O&P clinicians between the Freetown and Bo clinics using our first in-country specialized and inclusive clinical education program, increasing the national clinical workforce 5-fold.

MIT Team

  • Dr. Hugh Herr, Principal Investigator of the Biomechatronics Group
  • Francesca Riccio-Ackerman, Graduate Student Lead, Researcher at the Biomechatronics Group, Global Health Systems Designer
  • Dara Dotz, Consultant Humanitarian Designer and Low-Resource Fabrication Expert
  • Lindsey Charles, Biomechatronics Project Administrator
  • Claudine HumureMS, PO, Senior Program and Development Prosthetist-Orthotist
  • Leila Abdelrahman; Consultant Software Developer
  • Adikalie Kamara, Researcher and Community Liaison

Ministry of Health and Government Collaborators

  • Dr. David Sengeh, Chief Minister of Sierra Leone (Biomechatronics and MIT Graduate)
  • Dr. Austin Demby, Minister of Health and Sanitation
  • Dr. Santigie Sesay, Director of Non-Communicable Diseases
  • Dr. Ismaila Kebbie, Director of Rehabilitation & Physiotherapy
  • Abdulrahman Dumbaya, Head Prosthetist at the National Rehabilitation Center

Collaborating Organizations

News and Updates on the MIT Program to Strengthen Orthotics & Prosthetics Care in Sierra Leone

New collaboration aims to strengthen orthotic and prosthetic care in Sierra Leone


Photo courtesy of the researchers

MIT’s K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics and Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation aim to develop an integrative approach to strengthening and expanding the orthotic and prosthetic sector within the African nation.

In January 2023,  the MIT Team signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health, which initiated and officially communicated a nation-wide effort to improve care for people with disabilities, for patients from all regions with changes designed to last for generations. 

MIT’s K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics has entered into a collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone to strengthen the capabilities and services of that country’s orthotic and prosthetic (O&P) sector. Tens of thousands of people in Sierra Leone need orthotic braces and artificial limbs, but access to such specialized medical care in this African nation is limited.

The agreement between MIT, the Center for Bionics, and Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) provides a detailed memorandum of understanding (MOU) and intentions that will begin as a four-year program. 

“[This collaboration fosters] access, innovation, and capacity-building in the Orthotic and Prosthetic division…building resilient health systems, especially for vulnerable groups.” ⏤ Dr. Austin Demby, Minister of Health of Sierra Leone

Graduate Student Lead Francesca Riccio-Ackerman receives MIT Morningside Academy for Design Fellowship

When the creation of the MIT Morningside Academy for Design (MAD) — a major interdisciplinary center housed in the MIT School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) — was announced last spring, it promised to build on the Institute’s legendary leadership in design-focused education and provide a hub for cross-disciplinary design work across MIT. The 14 graduate students enrolled as MAD’s inaugural cohort of design fellows are making good on that promise with research projects supporting a range of efforts, with many demonstrating a strong interest in working at the interface of design and sustainability.

The fellows are currently enrolled in masters or doctoral programs across MIT. Engineers, business students, architects, city planners, policy developers — they all wanted to participate in the academy to expand their understanding of design and enrich their ongoing projects or theses.

Graduate student Lead for the MIT Program to Strengthen Orthotics & Prosthetics Care in Sierra Leone, Francesca Riccio-Ackerman, was named an inaugural Design Fellow at the new MIT Morningside Academy for Design. She describes her work as improving the future of healthcare for “forever patients.” Working in the Biomechatronics Group in the MIT Media Lab and the K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics at MIT, she focuses on making prosthetic business sectors more equitable domestically and internationally on a systemic level by designing tools that improve access to, and translation of, prosthetic technologies.

In 2021, Francesca joined the K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics, co-directed by Professor Hugh Herr, often referred to as the “Leader of the Bionic Age.” The center’s ambition is to bridge the gap between human limitation and human potential. Through its research, one of the Center’s priorities is to ensure equitable access of the latest bionic technology to all impacted individuals, especially to those in low-resource communities."


Adikalie Kamara

The MIT Team welcomes Claudine Humure, as the Senior Program and Development Prosthetist-Orthotist for the Sierra Leone Project

Claudine was orphaned during the Rwanda genocide and lost her right leg to osteosarcoma at the age of 12. Claudine owes her life to Dr. Paul Farmer, of Partners in Health (PIH); he diagnosed her illness and arranged for her treatment at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

In June 2023, Claudine completed her Master's Degree in Prosthetics & Orthotics at the University of Washington in Seattle and passed the National Board Exams in August. In September 2023, she began a one-year contract in Sierra Leone, after which she plans to return to the US for her O&P Residency.

In her current role, Claudine assists the O&P Theory professor in teaching and mentoring 16 Sierra Leone Trainees. She provides hands-on technical skills needed to fabricate therapeutic O&P devices and gives individualized support across a range of academic and laboratory activities.

Claudine also supports and learns from the clinicians at the club foot clinic, which is part of the National Rehabilitation Center of Sierra Leone. She is a dedicated advocate for health equity in Rwanda, and is now engaging directly with the budding O&P sector of Sierra Leone.

MIT-Ministry of Health of Sierra Leone Specialized O&P Education Program Welcomes Human Study Organization to Sierra Leone for first Hands-On Clinician Training

As part of our mission to build the capacity for O&P care in Sierra Leone, we are growing an inclusive workforce that can deliver quality care to patients by educating eleven new O&P clinicians between the Freetown and Bo clinics using our first in-country specialized and inclusive clinical education program, increasing the national clinical workforce 5-fold.

Our ongoing collaboration with ISPO-certified education + training NGO, Human Study Organization allows us to offer first of its kind hybrid in-country education to invest in local Sierra Leoneans.

As part of the hybrid education approach, the Human Study Organization Team visits Sierra Leone frequently to offer hands-on practical workshops and teach critical fabrication and patient treatment techniques. Their team was recently welcomed at the National Rehabilitation Center in Freetown, Sierra Leone for the first hands-on instructional experience.