Burns prevention awareness-raising in Palestine

Displacement, cramped living conditions and an over- reliance on open flames can often result in horrific burns injuries. Since 2009, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has been supporting specialised hospital units treat patients with burns injuries in the West Bank and Gaza.

We spoke to Hana’a and Ali, who oversee MAP’s burns prevention project, to hear how their work is helping to reduce the prevalence of burns injuries in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and improve the care that those with burns injuries receive.

Hi Ali and Hana’a, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Ali: I’ve been working with MAP in Gaza for a year. I am a qualified nurse and have a master’s degree in Community Health Nursing.

Hana’a: I’ve worked with MAP for three years as a Programme Officer in the West Bank.

Why is it important that MAP supports the development of burns care in Palestine?

Ali: Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world. The poverty and unemployment rates are very high, especially among youth and women. We have eight refugee camps and living conditions are very bad. There is little awareness and education regarding preventable injuries, including burns.

Hana’a: In the West Bank there are high rates of burns cases. According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), there are more than 7,000 burns injuries every year and most of these are among children. The causes are mainly hot water or other accidents in the kitchen.

Like in Gaza, we lack organisations who provide burns care training. In the whole of the West Bank we only have two burns units, which are both supported by MAP, one in the south in Hebron and one in the north in Nablus.

This is why MAP provides training to local health workers. Through our training programmes we are helping to bring about a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to burns care in the West Bank and Gaza, whereby patients are cared for by a team of healthcare professionals.

Ali: In Gaza, it is very difficult for local doctors to leave to upgrade their skills, due to the closure and blockade imposed since 2007. MAP is providing critical work, helping to improve the capacity of nurses, physicians, and physiotherapists to treat burns injuries. All the medics working in burns care have received their specialist training and skills from missions coming with MAP from the UK.

Can you tell us about some of the recent activities you have supported as part of this burn prevention project?

Ali: We are carrying out the first study in the region to monitor the cause and prevalence of burns injuries at a community level, helping us to identify factors to reduce the risk of burns. The project is being supported by the Center for Global Burn Injury Policy and Research (CGBIPR) at Swansea University in Wales. I’m really proud to have helped MAP submit a paper on the study to the Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance Conference. We have also submitted a paper to the International Society for Burns Injuries in Birmingham.

Another component of the project is the delivery of a quality assessment tool, designed by our partner Interburns, to help improve the care provided to burns patients. This has helped us identify gaps in hospital services in Gaza and West Bank burn units and areas that need improvement, including the skills and knowledge of staff, equipment, policies and protocols.

We are also delivering awareness-raising sessions for adults and children in a Bedouin village, which is one of the most marginalised areas in Gaza with a very high rate of burns injuries. We have distributed posters and pamphlets in the village, reaching about 500 households to help increase the community’s understanding of how to prevent burn injuries.

Hana’a: We’ve also been working hard in the West Bank to ensure quality improvement in burns care. We delivered several basic burns care trainings for local health workers between September 2019 and February 2020. But these have had to be suspended sadly since the outbreak of COVID-19. For the time being, there are no missions coming from the UK to the West Bank, so we are looking at carrying out remote workshops.

Based on our research we have started to develop guidelines for preventing burns. Like in Gaza, we are delivering our key messages in areas with the highest number of burns injuries, including through brochures, posters, an animation and puppet show. We will give awareness raising sessions, but these are currently on hold due to the pandemic. Instead we are going to promote the videos on local TV, as viewership has increased greatly since the lockdown.

Can you tell us more about the puppet show you recently produced?

Ali: The puppet show was filmed in Gaza and the script written by our partner organisation, in close coordination with MAP and burn care staff. The two-minute show tells the story of a little girl who has been burnt after an accident in her home. Her mother applies toothpaste to the burn, a traditional method still commonly used in Palestine. The mother takes her daughter to a health clinic, where she is seen by a doctor. The doctor advises the mother not to apply toothpaste and how to deal with burn injuries correctly. The doctor also gives advice on how to avoid burns at home.

Hana’a: Children are the main audience of the puppet show, but some adults, like us, are enjoying it too. My daughter is a big fan and has started to repeat it over and over.

We are going to share it with our project partners in Nepal and Ethiopia too and it is being promoted widely on social media.

What are the next steps for the project?

Ali: We will be promoting our oPt burns research. Hana’a and myself will be presenting the key findings at international conferences and in academic journals.

Hana’a: Ali and I are also monitoring the number of patients with burns injuries every month, to monitor the impact of our work. This year we’ve recorded that the number of burns injuries has reduced in the West Bank, which we are delighted about and all the more motivated to make sure our key messages on burns prevention continue reaching community members.

Thank you for speaking to us Hana’a and Ali, and for all you are doing to help reduce burn injuries in the oPt and improve care for those with burns injuries. MAP would also like to thank the Centre for Global Burn Injury Policy and Research at Swansea University and Interburns for all their support.

If you would like to support MAP’s work improving care for Palestinian burns patients, please donate today:

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