South Sudan: Helping Burn Victims Recover


On September 16, 2015, in Maridi, South Sudan, 186 people were killed and many more were severely injured when a fuel tanker truck exploded. The truck had overturned by the side of the road and hundreds of locals gathered around it in hopes of collecting fuel when the explosion occurred. Handicap International, which has been working in the region since 2006, is providing rehabilitation to survivors recovering from burn injuries, like Mary.

Mary, like many of her neighbors, brought a jerry can to the truck to collect fuel. She filled her can and walked about 200 feet away from the truck when she heard an explosion behind her. Mary was thrown into the air and landed hard on the ground. Then the jerry can full of fuel in her hand exploded.

She lost four fingers and the tip of her thumb on her right hand. She also sustained a large open wound, which did not heal properly. Mary and 60 other burn victims where transferred to the Juba Teaching Hospital where Handicap International provides physical therapy. Doctors grafted a piece of skin from Mary’s leg on to her hand.

Lieselotte Vlaeminck, Handicap International physical therapist from Belgium, started working with Mary shortly after her surgery.  “We did exercises together so that Mary could learn how to use her right arm and hand for everyday tasks,” says Lieselotte. After two months of work, Mary had progressed enough to be able to return home. “She’s really looking forward to being reunited with her family,” says Lieselotte. “She’s a brave girl and knows now that her disability shouldn’t stop her from being independent.”

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