Disabled people are the world’s largest minority. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That law has improved the lives of the disabled in the United States and brought greater awareness to the issues they face. But more needs to be done here and in developing countries, where 80 percent of the world’s disabled live.At Interplast, we treat a hidden minority within the disabled community: those who have become needlessly disabled because of burn injuries. Few realize the scope and impact of disabling burn injuries in the developing world, but every 5 seconds someone is severely burned in a developing country---more than 6 million people annually. That is 1.5 times more than the number of women worldwide who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS each year.
Compounding the large scope is the fact that proper burn treatment is almost nonexistent for the world’s impoverished. Consequently, their wounds, even relatively minor ones, often “heal” unnecessarily into disabilities, as the skin closes and tightens into contractures. These are disabilities that most cannot even imagine and something that never happens in the United States: heads fused to necks unmoving; fingers stuck together useless; legs contracted and bent, preventing walking.
In 2009, the U.S. took a step toward advancing the rights of the disabled worldwide by signing of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, the task of actually improving these conditions is daunting. Moreover, before such measures will help the millions with debilitating burn injuries, burns first must be acknowledged as a neglected global health problem and a significant cause of disability in developing countries. Please help us spread the word. http://bit.ly/cxnEtAPhoto by John Urban.