Out of The Fire and Into Our Clinic

On Saturday a three year old girl was brought into the clinic with horrendous burns having fallen into a `tandor'; a mud oven. These are all over the villages in Kushk-e-Kohna. There are holes in the earth about 30cm across and the oven is directly below. Pots are placed on top of the holes, which have a black, charred rim. This unfortunate girl had fallen into one and had become wedged in by her waist. She had been there for about 10 minutes before she was pulled out. It was 3 days before she was taken to the clinic. She was wrapped in a dirty blanket when her elderly (grey beard) father and burka-covered mother brought her in.

There were gasps of horror when we removed the blanket and steam rose from her wounds. Almost all her skin below the navel had been burned completely off, what remained was black and flaking. The nurses from the clinic, with a minimum of direction from myself, expertly removed the dead skin, cleaned the wounds and very carefully dressed them with paraffin gauze and elastic bandages. By the time they had finished, she was settled and comfortable. Two days later we had to repeat the process because we couldn't take her to Herat where the fighting had barely finished. She came in to the clinic happy and smiling and her wounds looked far, far better. Although it will take several weeks, if not months for the wounds to heal I am confident that now and after I have left, burns will receive excellent basic treatment at the clinic.

Jonathan Tomlinson is a British GP currently working with MSF in Kushk, a small town in northern Afghanistan.