Partner Spotlight: ReSurge International: Addressing the Silent Emergency of Burns, Creating a Safer World Together
Severe burns remain a hidden health crisis in developing countries, particularly among poor women and children. Most burn injuries in the United States are usually easily treatable with cool water, a first aid kit or a visit to urgent care. But each year millions of impoverished women and children worldwide suffer burn injuries that often cause permanent disabilities or death.
As followers of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves realize, almost half of the world’s population, 3 billion people, still use open flames to cook for their families and to heat and light their homes. But what they may not realize is how commonplace burn injuries are.
In developing countries, severe burns affect 7 million people a year — particularly low-income women and children — according to the new Global Burden of Disease statistics. More women worldwide are severely burned each year than are diagnosed with HIV and TB combined. South Asia is at the epicenter of the burn crisis, where more children die from severe burns than from HIV/AIDS and malaria. Burns are India's third leading cause of burden of disease.
Burn survivors often are stigmatized and shunned, hindering their ability to be productive citizens. In some cases, burns also represent a human rights issue, especially for women and girls in South Asia where fire and acid attacks are used to brutally disfigure them.
What's more, there is a vast shortage of doctors, surgeons and facilities for burns in developing countries: when care is available, few poor people can afford it. Without access to adequate care, even fairly minor burn injuries can needlessly cause permanent disabilities. A burned foot, for example, might attach to the shin as the wound “heals” and the skin contracts, making it impossible to walk. A hand might tighten into a fist, making feeding oneself difficult.
Severe burns leave victims with disabilities that cost more than $80 billion a year in lost wages and skills; 95 percent of that economic burden occurs in developing countries, undermining economic and social development where it is most needed.
ReSurge International has been providing reconstructive surgery for burn survivors in developing countries for more than 40 years, restoring mobility, functionality and hope for a more productive life. Nearly 70 percent of the burn cases we treat were caused by open fires, mainly cooking fires. That is why we became members of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. We want to ensure that new technologies for cooking are also fire-safe and reduce burn injuries.
Vulnerable people without access to adequate health care should not have to suffer with deformities or life-threatening injuries caused by severe burns. Burns can easily be prevented and treated through surgery that corrects disabling injuries and saves countless lives.
Solutions exist, and ReSurge and our partner International Medical Corps want to bring those solutions into action. Safer cookstoves are an important component to a comprehensive burn prevention program in developing countries. We hope that together our work can help save millions of women and
children from suffering and dying needlessly.
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