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Providing emergency care to severe burn survivors


Emergency | Rehabilitation | Sierra Leone | PUBLISHED ON January 21st 2022
HI mobilises after a deadly explosion in the heart of Freetown, Sierra Leone, in November 2021.

HI mobilises after a deadly explosion in the heart of Freetown, Sierra Leone, in November 2021. | ©

In Sierra Leone, HI assists survivors of a fuel tank explosion by facilitating their identification and access to specialized rehabilitation services.

On 5 November, the explosion of a fuel tank in Freetown killed more than one hundred people and injured about 100 more. HI set up an emergency response to assist people burned in the incident and survivors suffering from psychological trauma. After identifying affected individuals, the organisation facilitated their access to mental health and specialized physiotherapy. Almost two months after the explosion, the first survivors supported by HI are testifying. 

Identification and assistance to burn victims

HI visited a total of 201 impacted persons, among whom 68 were survivors of the incident and 133 were family members of the deceased or reported missing.

Mohamed is one of the survivors of the explosion. I got burnt on my left ankle. I didn’t know what to do after being injured and I was afraid that the police would come and take me if I went to the hospital,” he says. “So I went back home and tried to take care of it on my own.”

Mohamed lives 25 km away from the site of the accident. “I was home when the HI team located me,” he explains. “They advised me to go to the nearest hospital to avoid infection. I received a treatment, including physiotherapy, which is helping me. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to the hospital, as I couldn’t walk without a crutch. Now I am getting better day by day.”

HI also created and distributed 800 leaflets on burns care, burns prevention and first aid tips, to explain the risks of secondary complications and raise awareness about the importance of follow-up. 

Financial support for transportation

To help patients attend their medical appointments, HI provides refunds for transportation costs. Mariatu, another survivor explains:

“I am receiving treatment at Rokupa Government Hospital, about 30 minutes away from where I live in Old Wharf. Considering my condition, it’s difficult for me to attend daily care, as I have no income. HI supports me with transportation fees. It is so far the best support that I’ve received. I am now getting better every day”.

Physiotherapy training in burn care

In burn care, physiotherapy is essential during acute care in the hospital and long after discharge to avoid secondary complications and functional long-term impairments, which may lead to disabilities. Thanks to HI’s support, 44 survivors benefited from physiotherapy services

HI deployed a physiotherapist specialized in burn care to provide capacity building support for rehabilitation workers at the National Rehabilitation Center. The National Rehabilitation Center also deployed one rehabilitation worker in a community center to ensure continuity of care after the patients are discharged from the hospital. In total, 17 nurses were trained at the Emergency Hospital and 9 physiotherapists were trained on burn care and physical rehabilitation care for burns patients. 

Emily, the team leader, says, “We are grateful for the burn training we have received. The training was short but our team acquired vast knowledge, which is going to help us in our practice."

The project is financed for 45 days by START Fund and for 6 months by France (CDCS).

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