Burns and war-related traumas

by Luca Catalano Gonzaga

In the Iraqui city of Nasiriyah, where everything is precarious and unstable after years of violence and fear, war is not a memory but a wound that is still open. Here too, as elsewhere in other countries torn by conflict, children are the ones who pay the highest price. War brought to its knees an health care system that is not able to guarantee the essential services. As it often happens when a conflict has left nothing but death and rubble, in this city there are organizations formed by doctors specialising in plastic surgery who, concentrating their work in a few weeks of intense activity, are able to operate on many patients, mostly children. In Iraq there is a high incidence of victims of facial and body deformities due to burns caused by domestic accidents or unexploded ordnance, placed on a waiting list to be submitted to delicate plastic surgery interventions. Above all, it’s the children that are subjected to daily risks due to the complete lack of security of the places where they live in. Exposed electrical cables, gas tanks and naphtha for cooking and heating lack any form of protection. Beside Iraq is one of the countries in the world wiich have the highest rates of children who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate and other severe facial deformities. Considering that in Europe these conditions affect one in 1.200 children, in Iraq, the ratio is one in 300. The higher prevalence is certainly triggered by a genetic component of this pathology which becomes recurrent due to many consanguine marriages, often spurred by the mother’s lack of folic acid and severe malnourishment during pregnancy. Those who cannot afford an early operation are condemned to endure a seriously incapacitating disease. As the plastic surgeons of the NGO Emergenza Sorrisi arrive at Al Habobbi Hospital, the waiting room fills up with patients hoping to be seen and operated. This reportage tells about the wait, the moments preceding the surgical intervention, some phases of the delicate reconstructive process, the gradual awakening. (text by Sebastiano Caputo).

The story “Burns and war-related traumas.by Luca Catalano Gonzaga tells the stories of women and children who had an opportunity of being operated thanks to the surgical care of the NGO Emergenza Sorrisi.