Severe burns remain a neglected health crisis in developing countries, particularly among poor women and children who use open flames for cooking and lighting and don't have access to medical care when accidents happen.
The Staggering Scope and Impact
Every 5 seconds someone is severely burned - nearly 11 million people annually - and 95 percent of them live in developing countries. An estimated 337,000 people die each year from burn injuries, and the vast majority of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. For those who survive, even fairly minor burn injuries can needlessly cause permanent disabilities.
Burns are a leading cause of morbidity in developing countries. South Asia is at the epicenter of the burn crisis, and nearly a third of all deaths from burns globally happen to women and girls in that region. There, more women and children die from severe burns than from HIV/AIDS or malaria. It is also the 6th leading cause of lost productive years (DALYs) for women 15-49. In Sub-Saharan Africa, burns are also the 19th leading cause of death. Infants in Africa have three times the incidence of burn deaths than infants worldwide.
Burn injuries disproportionally cause economic hardships in low-income countries. Severe burns leave their victims with disabilities that cost more than $80.2 billion a year in lost productivity (wages and skills) alone and almost all (95 percent) of that economic burden occurs in developing countries - undermining economic and social development where it is needed most.
Burns are also a human rights issue, especially for women. 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.
Why Burns Happen
Burns are acutely tied to poverty. Half of the world still uses open fires for cooking, heating and/or lighting. In these households, disabling burns are prevalent. Burn prevention programs are almost non-existent in low-income countries. Overcrowded living conditions, lack of proper fire safety measures, loose clothing worn by women and insufficient parental supervision of children are other factors. Violence against girls and women by throwing acid on them or setting them on fire is, again, tragically another cause of burns in South Asia.
The Importance of Treatment
Without immediate access to adequate burn care, burn injuries are left to heal by themselves, creating scar tissue (contractures) that can destroy function and movement, and cause disfigurement in ways unimaginable. A burned foot 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. In the developing world, countless men, women and children suffer unnecessarily from injuries and disabilities that could be prevented and treated.
Leading the Way in Burn Care
ReSurge has a long history of helping burn victims have a second chance at life. By releasing burn contractures, ReSurge surgeons restore movement and functionality to the afflicted areas. Today, approximately 45 percent of ReSurge's surgical work is related to burns. More than 2,700 surgeries were performed last year to restore functionality to burn victims, renewing their hope and increasing their productivity.
ReSurge also educates and empowers burn professionals in developing countries by providing training and workshops, and by sending teams of medical volunteers to help them with the backlog of burn cases.
Furthermore, ReSurge recognizes that once someone comes to us with a burn scar contracture, two horrible things have already happened. One, the injury was not prevented. And two, the patient did not receive the appropriate treatment when the burn first occurred. Therefore, ReSurge is expanding its work and partnerships to address these issues. Read more.
Source: Statistics derived by ReSurge from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease study, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and World Health Organization, and World Health Organization's Global Burden of Disease Study 2004, when 2010 statistics were not available.