On Monday, The Lancet published a study stating that more than 100,000 young women were killed in fires in India in a single year, and many of those deaths were tied to domestic abuse.
These findings substantiate Interplast’s study on the forgotten global health crisis of burns and give further evidence that Southeast Asia (which includes India) is the epicenter of the crisis.
We are pleased that The Lancet and many newspapers across the country covered this important issue. However, this study only discusses deaths by fires. What about the women who survive, but who are left disfigured and disabled in ways unimaginable in the United States?
Some of them become Interplast patients and we help restore their abilities to use their hands or move their head again; yet, there are millions more who are left as outcasts and with permanent disabilities. Burns are a neglected health issue that is solvable with more resources for prevention, better acute care, reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation. Nearly 4 million women worldwide receive a severe burn every year---the same number of women who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS annually. Isn’t it time to make burns a global health priority?
Above are photographs of Renu, an Interplast patient and victim of domestic abuse in Dehradun, where she just received surgery to release her contractures around her mouth and nose. The first one is of her before she was set on fire. After photo by John Urban.