On Saturday, an oil tanker exploded in Sange, a town just south of Bukavu in the South Kivu province of Eastern Congo. The BBC reports that 230 were killed – at least 60 were children. Nearly 200 others were injured, some burned severely.
The situation is devastating: Many were killed in the fire that ensued, trapped inside buildings engulfed by flames. Others were killed or injured because they ran to siphon off the fuel – a dysfunctional state where government services are lacking means relying on your own generators for electricity and other services. And that means you need fuel. Expensive fuel. Fuel that’s just spilling out of a truck, waiting to be collected.
For many of us at JWW this news was particularly emotional. Back in February JWW worked with Moriah Africa, and Israeli NGO, and MASHAV, Israel’s Foreign Aid Arm, to establish eastern Congo’s first-ever Burn Center in Bukavu.
No burn unit capable of skin grafting and other complex burn care existed in Eastern Congo before February 2010. This, despite the fact that almost the entire population cooks over open fires and constant insecurity acutely limits access to medical care – burns, and their crippling, disfiguring after-effects are relatively widespread in the region.
Dozens of patients in critical need following the fuel tanker explosion have arrived at the Burn Center. We’ve learned from the doctors at the Burn Center that fifteen patients with severe burns have already been admitted, and dozens more await care. The intensive care unit is at capacity. Panzi hospital to the south of Bukavu, we’ve learned, is sending its patients up to the Burn Center, where treatment options are better.
We’ll be issuing emergency funding to the Burn Center to send Israeli plastic surgeons trained in skin grafting and other burn treatment techniques to Bukavu to help increase capacity there and treat more patients.