Women main victims of ‘punishment burns’


Gender-based violence-related burns have women as the main victims from intentional burns. [Courtesy]

Fire is a good servant, but a very bad master. More than 200,000 Kenyans who suffered burns know this too well.

But alas! Majority of victims are children aged below five, who are taken to health facilities with scalds. The others are domestic gas burns and gender violence-related ones.

Majority of burn victims in Nairobi, for instance, mainly come from Kibra, Kayole, Mathare, Kawangware, Mukuru and Pipeline, and some are taken to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

The hospital recorded 698 burn cases between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, of which 85 per cent were scalds for children below five, according to the National Burns Society of Kenya.

John Kariuki is one survivor of burns caused by an LPG gas explosion which left him with emotional and physical scars after losing his family in the fire on July 19 this year. That was just three months after he returned from Qatar where he worked as a security guard. 

Kariuki’s burn scars are visible on his 38-year-old face and hands. 

“My wife was preparing supper. She had only cooked rice and was about to prepare the stew before we noticed the gas was over. We called the local gas supplier, who fixed it before she finished cooking. We ate then slept,” he says, recalling how hell broke loose the following morning when his wife was preparing breakfast at around 5.30am.

John Kariuki got burnt on July 19, 2021, in Nairobi. He was speaking during fire safety and burns awareness week 2021 at KNH. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

When she lit the gas there was an explosion.

“I noticed the door was open, so I pushed my wife out and we couldn’t go back for the baby because we had severe injuries. Our neighbours helped to bring the child out.”

Kariuki was admitted to KNH for three weeks and regularly goes for checkups. His child died three weeks later, and so did his wife.

Gender-based violence-related burns have women as the main victims of intentional burns delivered as “punishment” by their husbands or partners.

Electrical accidents cause burns, with Kenya Power reporting that more than 80 per cent of electrocutions, fires and injuries are caused by unsafe public acts.

“The main causes are illegal connections, poor wiring in customer premises, encroachment of wayleaves, fallen energised conductors, misuse of electrical appliances and vandalism of Kenya Power infrastructure,” reads a report by John Guda, the company’s manager for safety, health and environment.

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