Burn Issues

According to the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Health there are almost 55,000 burn cases in the country every year. No detailed studies have been conducted to breakdown that number to determine how many are the result of physical abuse, domestic violence and gender based discrimination. What is clear, however, is that Nepal’s complex social system based on patriarchal power structures makes it difficult for victims to openly speak about it

Annual Report 2008-2009, Dept. of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Population, Govt. of Nepal.

Accidents

The most common causes of burn accidents are:
Children: Open cooking fires, children falling into a ground level cooking vessel, children falling into vats containing hot buffalo food, infants left unsupervised near an open fire, or electrocution caused by naked wires, etc. In the fiscal year 2072-2073, 314 children were admitted in Kanti Children`s Hospital. Among them, 74.84% suffered from scald burns which is due to hot liquids in comparison to other burn injuries like flame burn (20.38%)².

Adults: Open cooking fires. The women generally wear traditional free flowing garments and get too close to open fires when cooking. During winter, adults seeking warmth often get too close to an open fire and their clothes catch alight. Gas cylinder/ pressure cooker explosions are not uncommon and workers are occasionally electrocuted when the men are fixing electrical wires.

The April 2015 earthquake has meant that many of BVS-Nepal’s constituency have also lost their homes and livelihoods. There has been a marked increase in burns accidents caused by loose wires, unsafe cooking arrangements in temporary shelters, and burns violence incidents related to extreme stress, etc.  In 2015-2016, 32% of BVS Nepal`s beneficiaries of the Medical and Surgical support were from districts adversely affected by the Earthquake.

Burn Violence

The most common reasons for burns violence and acid attacks are :

Domestic violence, rejection in love, marriage or sex proposals, witchcraft, dowry related and other marital disputes, land or property disputes, or the inability to produce a male child.

BVS Nepal has been able to collate data regarding burn violence/acid attacks in Nepal by conducting research, press monitoring and support programs. Since 2010, we have determined that there are 245 cases of burn violence/acid attacks that have been reported (40 people per annum). Of the 245, 122 are homicide related and 123 suicide attempts attributed to domestic violence. The victims are mainly women (71.5%). 15% are men, 4% children between 0 and 12 years old, and 9.5% are teenagers between 13 and 17 years. The main reasons for the burns violence is Domestic Violence (43.7%), conflict within the family such as inter caste marriage, property disputes, economic issue (30.5%), dowry System (7%), and extra marital affair (6.5%)…

The majority of burns violence cases are not reported to the Police. Often survivors lie about the burns violence as accident and only upon several counselling sessions do the survivors confide to homicide or suicide attempt. In the absence of counselling services, BVS Nepal has counselors visiting the Trauma Center, Kanti Children's Hospital and Teaching Hospital.

Result of Burn Injuries

Burn injuries result in disfigurement, long lasting medical complications, pain, social ostracism and psychological trauma. Patients often take years to recover from their injuries. Not only do they need assistance with their physical rehabilitation but also their psychological recovery. Symptoms include anxiety, isolation, insomnia, aggressive and abusive behavior, difficulty in concentrating and depression.

They also face discrimination and can be marginalized over time. Survivors need to rebuild their confidence. Once they finally reach that stage, they may still encounter difficulties reintegrating into society. Additionally, they face economic difficulties on a number of levels.  They struggle to find employment that is commensurate with their ability but given that most suffer some physical impairment they do not get opportunities they are entitled to.  They generally have a family to provide for and may also be indebt either before or as a result of their burn accident or violence.