Picture : Getty Images/CICR / SHELLEY, Allison

Mr. Gerald Oriol, Hait’s Secretary of State for the Integration of persons with disabilities during the inauguration in 2012 of the physical rehabilitation centre Klinik Kay Kapab in Port-au-Prince founded by the ICRC Special Fund for the Disabled.



The ICRC Special Fund for the Disabled (SFD) was created by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1983 to ensure the continuity of former ICRC programmes for populations affected by conflict, and support other physical rehabilitation centres in low-income countries.

While the SFD activities are not included in the ICRC budget and are funded independently through the SFD yearly appeal, the ICRC pro­vides the SFD with substantial logistical and administrative support.


Like other development organizations aiming to enhance national capacities, the SFD implements projects that stretch over several years. The SFD’s assistance is geared towards maintaining and increasing access to rehabilitation services, and improving the quality and sustainability of these services. This is mainly achieved through capacity building and training together with technical, material and financial assistance. At SFD-supported centres, the actual physical rehabilitation work is carried out by the local partner. From the start, project ownership is and remains with the partner. The SFD carries out regular follow-up visits over a number of years and provides advice and coaching not only in technical matters but also for the management, innovation and further development of services. In addition, the SFD directs advocacy efforts at the authorities concerned, and seeks to mobilize other actors and foster networking and cooperation with them.

Formal education remains fundamental to the training of profes­sional staff. The SFD offers scholarships and supports a number of prosthetic/orthotic schools worldwide in order to maintain high education standards. This includes promoting the use of the poly­propylene technology and appropriate clinical training, organized in collaboration with local schools. The SFD also encourages and supports training in other fields such as management and quality control.

The duration of SFD support is directly linked to the local partners’ commitment to developing their own capacities to provide reha­bilitation services and their ability to become self-sustaining, in line with the recommendations and assessments provided during SFD monitoring visits.


The entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2008 and the 2011 recommenda­tions of the World Disability Report (World Health Organization, World Bank, 2010) have brought further support to the SFD’s ultimate goal of promoting socio-economic integration for people living with physical disabilities, while still focusing on their initial needs.

The aim is to remove – or to reduce as far as possible – restrictions on activities and thereby enable people with physical disabilities to become more independent and enjoy the highest possible quality of life. Various measures, such as medical care, physical rehabilita­tion including physiotherapy, vocational training, social support, and programmes promoting economic self-reliance, all come into play. Networking with other providers of services in this field is indispensable and the SFD therefore seeks to develop its partners’ understanding of the overall rehabilitation process.


The technology for manufacturing orthopaedic devices favoured by the SFD is based on the polypropylene technology developed by the ICRC.

This technology is now standard practice for the production of pros­theses and orthoses in many low-income countries and is being used by a significant number of organizations involved in physical reha­bilitation, including the projects and centres supported by the SFD. It combines accessible standard components (i.e. prosthetic feet, knees, etc.), and raw materials (mainly polypropylene) that are locally available. Using this technology has considerably enhanced the technical skills of professionals working at SFD-supported physical rehabilitation centres, and thereby improved access to quality services for people with limited resources.


The SFD relies exclusively on voluntary contributions to cover its costs both in the field and at headquarters. Its donor base consists of governments, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, foun­dations and private donors.

The SFD’s accounts are examined yearly by an external auditor. SFD projects are regularly evaluated by internal and external assessors.