Saraswoti Shrestha was burned as a child when she fell into a cooking fire in her family's previous one-room home.

Blazing Injustice: The Hidden Crisis of Burn Injuries

Intro to the Series

Burns cause an estimated 180,000 deaths each year, yet they rarely rate a significant spot on the global health agenda.

In Nepal, an estimated 56,000 people are burned seriously each year. In a 3-part exclusive series for Global Health NOW, Joanne Silberner reports on the devastating effects of burns in the country—the Untold Global Health Story of 2017, submitted by Emaline Laney, a scholar from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Through the stories of victims including 21-year-old Kamal Malla, who badly burned his hand after knocking over a kerosene lamp as a toddler, and 13-year-old Saraswoti Shrestha, whose life changed forever 5 years ago when she stumbled into a pot of oil on the open-fire stove in her family’s home, Silberner brings the problem into focus. She describes the efforts of Shankar Man Rai—a surgeon angered that only about 1,000 of the 56,000 people who suffer significant burns each year in Nepal get proper treatment—to give patients back their lives. After describing how the lack of data holds back burn prevention and care, she wraps up the series with an eye to what needs to happen to prevent these horrific injuries.

Untold Global Health Story of 2017

• Part I: Reconstructing Hope: A Surgeon's Mission to Help Nepal's Burn Patients profiles Shankar Man Rai, who is determined to change the fact that few poor people in Nepal who suffer from burns receive treatment. 

• Part II: Unmeasured and Unfunded: Lack of Data Hinders Burns Prevention and Care, exploring the reasons that burns in developing countries are notoriously difficult to count. 

• Part III: Fighting Fire with Prevention Padma Maharjan knows that prevention is the best way to solve the problem of burns, and she is trying to spread the word in her community.

Witness to InjusticeJournalist Joanne Silberner shares indelible images from her reporting, thoughts on why burns have failed to resonate as a global health issue and the sense of fatalism that keeps some people from embracing prevention in this behind-the-reporting Q&A with GHN Editor-in-Chief Brian W. Simpson.

Images of Blazing Injustice: Nepal's Burn SurvivorsA photo essay with heart-wrenching images by Rojita Adhikari, the photographer who accompanied journalist Joanne Silberner on the series, brings home the impact of how burns destroy lives.


Please see also GHN coverage of the 2016 Untold Global Health Story Winner, Bitter Harvest: Cassava and Konzo, the Crippling Disease and GHN's coverage of mycetoma, The Most Neglected Disease, which was selected as the 2015 Untold Global Health Story. 

Do you know of another Untold Story you'd like GHN to tell? If so, please enter the Untold Global Health Stories of 2018 Contest by November 10, 2017.

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Saraswoti Shrestha was burned as a child when she fell into a cooking fire in her family's previous one-room home. Image by Rojita Adhikari