What you need to know:
- Gender violence related burns have increased in the last one year according to data released by the Burn Society of Kenya.
- The data also shows that LPG fire incidents have been on the rise in the last one year, with children below five years sustaining more scalds, at 85 per cent.
Pastor Alex Ole Ikai recalls 2018 when he received a call that required him to urgently make his way to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).
The caller, the pastor says, only informed him that his sister who had been married in Murang’a for only six months, had been admitted to the hospital in critical condition.
He recounts how he abandoned what he was doing and left Narok for Nairobi, immediately; all this while praying that he would find his sister alive.
At KNH, he found his sister who was pregnant then, and her husband admitted at the burns unit, fighting for their lives.
They had suffered serious burns as a result of an inferno, which he later learnt emanated from domestic wrangles between the two.
Pastor Ikai tells nation.africa that when the fire broke out, the house in which the couple was had been locked from inside, making rescue efforts difficult.
Unfortunately, they succumbed to the burns. Their three-year-old daughter, however, survived with serious burns.
The cleric shared the heart-breaking story at KNH during the launch of this year’s Fire Safety and Burns Awareness week last week.
The campaign, organised by the Burn Society of Kenya and other stakeholders sought to sensitise the public on fire safety tips at home.
The organisation is also visiting informal settlements in Nairobi and Kisumu County where they educate locals on prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) and safe handling of gas cylinders to reduce explosion incidents.
Gender violence related burns have increased in the last one year according to data released at the launch. The figures also indicate that men account for more than half of casualties admitted at the hospital.
KNH Chief Executive Officer Dr Evanson Kamuri said out of 698 burn cases admitted between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, males of different age groups accounted for 58 per cent. Out of this, 20 per cent succumbed.
The data also shows that LPG fire incidents have been on the rise in the last one year, with children below five years sustaining more scalds, at 85 per cent.
Majority of the patients were from Nairobi and Kiambu counties. Nairobi’s Kibra, Kayole, Mathare, Kawangware, Mukuru and Pipeline accounted for 72 per cent of all burns.
Dr Kamuri observed that poor infrastructure and structural design, weak health referral system and challenges in healthcare financing are some of the risks in management of burns in the country.
“The government has committed funds to hasten the completion of the new state of the art burns centre at KNH, which will provide improved care to burn patients to reduce mortality as well as short and long-term complications,” said Dr Kamuri.
Joseph Mitito, a manager at Kenya Power Pension Fund said a GBV burn is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights yet one of the least persecuted crimes.
“GBV burns are preventable. As we work towards reducing the spread of Covid-19, we cannot afford to neglect the issue of GBV, otherwise we will soon have another crisis,” he said.
Burn Society of Kenya Chairman Dr Shaban Saidi, said there were 213,770 burn cases in 2020 compared to 248,962 in 2019 and 185,539 cases in 2018, according to the Ministry of Health records.
This, he noted, was a significant decrease in reported cases in 2020 when the pandemic was at its peak, due to the reluctance for casualties to visit hospitals.
The awareness campaign that focused on gender violence-related burns and reducing gas explosions, ran from September 20 to 24 and was themed “Zingatia Usalama wa Jamii".
According to Burn Society of Kenya, common causes of fires at the household level are include but are not limited to drunkenness, domestic violence, leaving cooking stoves unattended, electrical overloads and illegal electrical installations.
Human negligence is attributed to cause 90 per cent of all fires. Women suffer from intentional burns delivered as punishment by their husbands or partners, and have a harder time receiving treatment as their health is often undervalued.
“The death of our sister affected us as a family. We never imagined she would die at such a tender age and in such a painful way,” recalls Pastor Ikai who has never recovered from the pain of losing his sister.