In a consulting room in Togo's capital, Lome, student Geraldo Emmanuel - handicapped since birth six years ago - waits patiently on a bed while a digital scan is taken of his right leg.

Thanks to new 3D technology, he may be able to walk normally within a few months.

''The child walks on his toes so I'm scanning his leg so we can make him a orthotic using a 3D printer,'' said Enyonam Ekpoh, from Togo national orthopaedic device and physiotherapy centre  [CNAO]

A few hours later, Adjovi Koudahe, 46 has tests to receive a 3D brace for her right leg, which has been paralysed since a car accident in 2012.

''I've stopped doing anything because I'm in pain. I can't walk properly anymore,'' said the former trader, who limps heavily, aided  by a crutch.

''Despite all the treatment I've had, my leg won't respond and drags along the ground. But with the brace they want to make here, I've got high hopes.''

Three dimensional printing is a fast-track way to make individually-tailored prosthetics and orthopaedic support that compensate for a lack of limb, deformity or paralysis.

The technology, initiated by a  charity called  Handicap International, allows the bespoke devices to be produced faster and reach a large number of patients.

But if it is familiar to orthopaeadic  clinics in rich countries, it has yet to be introduced to poorer countries where needs are greater and the social safety net much smaller.

Only 5 to 15 percent people in low income countries who need a  prosthetic limb or orthopaedic brace get one, according to the  non-profit organisation based in France

Handicap International - recently renamed Humanity & Inclusion - is pushing ahead with research and clinical trials to see how the technology can be used in poor settings.

In 2016, it carried out clinical trials of three types of lower limb prosthetics in Madagascar, Syria and Togo, the results of which were highly encouraging.

A more ambitious project has been running called ''3D IMPACT'' has been running in Togo, Mali and Niger since November last year, where 100 patients  are getting made-to-measure 3D devices for free. [Agencies]


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