SAM KANG LI
Sunita and her family were celebrating Dasain this year with the usual revelry when a leaking cooking gas suddenly exploded in their kitchen and left 25-year-old Sunita and five other family members, including three children, severely burned.
Burn-related accidents are on the rise in Kathmandu not just during the festive season, but also because of kitchen accidents, domestic violence and suicides. The burn units at Bir Hospital and Kanti Children's Hospital find themselves overwhelmed with patients, most of them women.
Young children also suffer disproportionately from burn accidents. This past Dasain, Kanti Children's Hospital, which has the only pediatric burn unit in the country, registered a total of twelve burn cases. Children aged 10-14 are the main victims of burns due to electrocution and firecrackers.
Treating burn patients takes time, it is expensive and hospitals sometimes lack the necessary financial and technical support. Nevertheless Bir Hospital and Kanti Children's Hospital have been working relentlessly to treat burn victims.
Since most patients come from working-class families, occasionally the staff even arranges meals for the caretakers.
"We try to give our patients the best service with available resources at a nominal cost," says Nara Devi Bariya, the head nurse at Bir Hospital's Burns Unit. "Most patients are referred to Bir from private hospitals, because they can't afford the services there," she adds.
Recently, Bir Hospital and Kanti Children's Hospital made an encouraging move by partnering with Burns Violence Survivors (BVS) to educate Nepalis about prevention. Wendy Marston, an adviser at BVS says it is important to raise awareness amongst young children who are most vulnerable.
BVS has been going to schools, training students about prevention methods and getting them involved in helping burn survivors with first aid. Many students have presented burn victims at Kanti Children's Hospital with toys and games and a few students have even raised funds to support patients. Says Marston: "If people start becoming aware right from the school level, many burn related accidents could be prevented."
Lending a hand