In March 2016, World of Children Founders Harry and Kay Leibowitz and World of Children supporters are visiting three World of Children Honorees to observe their work first-hand and see how your donations have made a difference in the lives of children. World of Children Celebrity Ambassador Stephanie March joined them for the first two legs of their journey.
Second Stop – Chile, to learn more about Dr. Jorge Rojas’s work with children suffering from burn injuries
The Need: According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, “Burns from open fires and unsafe cookstoves are an insidious risk faced by poor households dependent on kerosene, open fires, and unstable metal or clay cookstoves.”
The WHO estimates that burns cause 265,000 deaths annually and that the majority of these occur in low- and middle-income countries. The rate of child deaths from burns is 7 times higher in these countries than in middle-income countries and burns are the fifth most common cause of non-fatal childhood injuries for children aged 1-9 years old.
Worldwide, non-fatal burns are a leading cause of morbidity, including prolonged hospitalization, disfigurement and disability, often with resulting stigma and rejection. These long-term consequences mean the need for treatment extends beyond medical care for the burns, and that these children would need psychological and emotional care for the long haul.
The Solution: While working as a plastic surgeon in Chile in the 1970’s, Dr. Jorge Rojas Zegers saw that long-term treatment for child burn victims was scarce, and many burn victims were unable to complete their education, obtain employment, and return to society to lead fulfilling lives. Therefore, in 1979 he founded Corporacion de Ayunda Nino Quemado (COANIQUEM) to provide burn treatment free of charge. His vision was that these interventions would allow child burn victims to lead healed, productive, and fulfilled lives.
Since its inception, COANIQUEM has benefited the lives of 75,000 children, providing treatment for over 9,000 annually. Rojas’ contributions have stretched beyond Chile to many other countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America. His vision of quality burn treatment, involving plastic surgery, scar compression, physical therapy, and treatment of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder, has been a model for others in the field as well. Rojas has also worked to generate consciousness of the causes of severe burns and has provoked Chilean legislators to initiate a law prohibiting the domestic use of fireworks and pyrotechnics.
Today, COANIQUEM hosts two burn rehabilitation facilities in Chile, but is raising funds for four new COANIQUEM centers in Latin America. These new centers will be like the first two with surgical rooms, dining rooms, and living spaces including hospitality services provided for the families of the burned children. A room is provided for one parent of each victim, so that he or she can stay the entire duration of the rehabilitation process with his or her child.
Tomorrow: Come back to read the stories of more children Dr. Rojas has helped!