“Between 80,000 and 100,000 people in Egypt get burned per year” Heba Sewedy, Founder of Ahl Masr

“Between 80,000 and 100,000 people in Egypt get burned per year” Heba Sewedy, Founder of Ahl Masr

Featured Image by Heba Begawi

 

Ahl Masr is a foundation that didn’t want Egypt to lose more to fire than it already did. Many Egyptians are in dire need for help when it comes to burns. Whether it be by raising awareness to the importance of fire prevention or by providing proper care for burn victims.

To the blissfully unaware, fire might seem like any other dangerous issue. It is, however, much more intense than that, as the numbers are staggeringly high in Egypt. 250 to 300 people fall victim to burns on daily basis.

The scarring, which is the body’s way of recovering, can become so bad that they constrict the victims’ movement. So not only do they face deformity, but also disability.

“The numbers are staggeringly high in Egypt. 250 to 300 people fall victim to burns on daily basis.”

Another issue burn victims face is the trauma caused by their accident, due to the severity of the pain they go through, and the fact that it comes with a scar. The survivors are left in need for cosmetic reconstructive surgery.

Ahmed Fahmy with burn victim
Ahmed Fahmy with burn victim

These risks become even worse as we venture further down the social ladder. Sometimes patients end up facing more issues than they should due to either lack of funds or supplies at hospitals, their inability to pay hospital fees, or general negligence. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), 95% of deaths due to burn accidents occur in low to middle-income countries.

This is why a foundation like Ahl Masr bears the burden of bringing hope to many Egyptians.

“Sometimes patients end up facing more issues than they should due to either lack of funds or supplies at hospitals, their inability to pay hospital fees, or general negligence.”

 

Little Yara’s Incident

On March 7th, Ashraf, our messenger, told us his family’s house caught on fire, and there were severe losses.

Ashraf’s niece and nephew, three year old twins, were injured in the fire. They were rushed to Kasr El Ainy hospital, where they were turned away. The children were snatched out of the ICU…

 

Fun day organized by AIS for burn victims
Fun day organized by AIS for burn victims

Sadly, the boy passed away due to his injuries. The girl, Yara, could have still be saved, had people acted quickly. The complications that followed can only be attributed to negligence.

“When everyone else’s apathy was getting in the way of a child’s survival, Ahl Masr stepped in. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to save little Yara.”

Yara should have been taken to another hospital, but the ambulance refused to take her. She arrived at the other hospital, three hours later, after being rushed in a car with IV’s connected to her body. She needed surgery, but couldn’t have it done right away because her body was too weak and dehydrated, “she needed IV’s and water, and for 16 hours she didn’t get them”, Ashraf says.

At the time of these interviews, little Yara was on a ventilator. When everyone else’s apathy was getting in the way of a child’s survival, Ahl Masr stepped in. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to save little Yara. The damage done to her three year old body was too severe, and she succumbed to her injuries and passed away before this issue goes to newsstands.

 

Heba Sewedy, the Woman behind Ahl Masr

Photography by Heba Begawi
Photography by Heba Begawi

Heba’s work with Ahl Masr has managed to raise awareness and help save lives. When traced to its very beginning, the Foundation came as a result to Heba Sewedy and her team helping out people who were had gotten burn injuries during the Jan25 Revolution, “the first burn victim I got was injured during the revolution and 90% of his body was burned”, she tells.

Heba formed Ahl Masr Foundation in 2013, “we decided to work with children who have heart conditions, eye conditions and burns. We then realized that eye and heart conditions had lots of foundations catering for them. The only thing that no one cared about is burns”, she explains. This lack of care results in a staggering high number of casualties, “between 80,000 and 100,000 people in Egypt get burned per year, this is according to the World Health Organization (WHO)”, she tells, “another report done by a group of corners says that this number is unreliable because many times deaths resulting from burns go unreported to avoid police questioning”. According to Heba, 37% of burn victims die in the first six hours after the incident. Some people die on the second or third day, so this 37% doesn’t represent everyone dying form burn complications. Also, 18% end up with permanent disability and 17% with temporary disability. 70% of burn victims are children below the age of 20, 50% of which are below the age of 9. These victims aren’t treated properly, resulting in a small percentage of healing.

“When traced to its very beginning, the Foundation came as a result to Heba Sewedy and her team helping out people who were had gotten burn injuries during the Jan25 Revolution.”

In 2014, Ahl Masr decided to focus their work on burn victims, “we decided to continue working with burn cases and getting them the treatment and operations they needed”, she tells, “each case might take 5 to 6 years if not more. We also try to do more, get laser treatment for example, because the deformities resulting from burns causes the victim to be neglected by society, parents pray that their children die especially if they’re girls because they won’t know how to marry them off”.  They decided to start the first free of charge burn hospital in the MENA region, “it’ll be a state of the art hospital with 60 in-patient beds, 20 ICU beds (10 for children, 10 for adults), 5 isolation rooms, and 5 ICU rooms”, she explains, “there will be physical and psychological rehabilitation. The psychological rehabilitation is for both patients as well as the doctors and nursing staff. There will also be a career center”. Other than that, Heba believes that Ahl Masr is responsible to find scholarships for burn victims who want to proceed with their education.

Burn victims go to see the Ice Age show
Burn victims go to see the Ice Age show

Ahl Masr aren’t only trying to fix what fire ruined, they also aim to prevent as many fires as they can. Heba and her team provide prevention and awareness, where they go to Egyptian villages, install water pipes to make sure water is available in all houses in the village, and teach them about fire prevention. They do the same thing at schools and companies. The latest of their programs is the Humanity Burn Free Initiative, “we raise awareness about the problem with burns in Egypt and that those people deserve to live. I’m hoping that it becomes a global initiative and that we’d set a day to become International Burns Day”, she explains.

“Ahl Masr decided to start the first free of charge burn hospital in the MENA region!”

Ahl Masr are hoping to finish the hospital as soon as they possibly can, “hopefully in three years it will be done. The more funding we have, the faster it’ll be done. I hope we finish it earlier”, she tells. Medical care of this level isn’t about quantity, but quality, “we want to provide training to the doctors and nurses in all hospitals and clinics that might receive burn victims on how to deal with them during the first 48 hours until they are transferred to a burn hospital”, she tells.

One of the things that make Ahl Masr special is its young team, “they’re all young AUC and GUC graduates and they had other careers, but they decided that they believed in this cause and wanted to work on it”, she explains, “what makes this place special is that everyone is passionate about it”. This passion really shows in everyone’s dedication to their work at Ahl Masr, “they felt their pain when they went to the villages and into their homes. At hospitals we keep a lady we call Hagga Salha there to make sure the patients receive proper treatment. We follow up with the patients. We’re working for God, and we aren’t doing those people a favor, they’re doing us a favor”, she says.

One of the ways Ahl Masr works for prevention is by collaborating with the fire fighting system in Egypt, “we have a protocol with the Red Crescent and Civil Defense where they come with us when we’re doing awareness campaigns. They’ve never seen anyone do anything like that before so they got very excited when we started doing it”, she elaborates.

“the hardest part is that I don’t have a hospital and don’t know where to transfer victims.”

One of the most difficult parts of their work is the fact that Ahl Masr, until now, don’t have a hospital yet, “the hardest part is that I don’t have a hospital and don’t know where to transfer victims. Ashraf was lucky enough that I found his niece a bed. Normally, we wouldn’t find one and it breaks our hearts”, she explains, “we get cases at our call center and keep trying to find a place to take them; it kills us when their families call us, crying on the phone”.

One of Heba’s principles is to not waste donations, “we don’t do television ads and we never will. They say that television ads bring in lots of money, and Al Kahera Wal Nas writes about us in the strip they have since last Ramadan”, she tells, “but that’s for free. Whatever we can do for free, we do, because we won’t use the money from donations on marketing”. Things have a way of working out, though, “if we get sponsors then great, Magida El Roumy’s concert is sponsored, Magida donated her pay, the organizer donated their fees, Ticketsmarche donated most of their fees, we got the sound and light theatre for free”, she explains. Ahl Masr have done everything in a similar fashion, newspaper ads, billboards, everything they do to market their work is free of charge, even the celebrities in the Humanity Burn Free campaign were never paid, neither were the photography sessions, “any money we get we’ll put in the hospital and to treat patients or in the villages, nothing else”, she tells.

Help isn’t only about money, though, “people can help by talking about burn problems, they can share our posts on Facebook. Word of mouth is very important to us. Everyone can come up wth an idea and let me know”, she says, “some people had a book sale and the proceeds went to Ahl Masr; a little girl wanted to help out and told her mother she wanted to make lemon juice and sell it at her school, she gathered 550LE and we were so happy with her”. Basically, anything goes when trying to help Ahl Masr, “if you’re a photographer you can come take photographs of our cases, maybe people can go visit patients in the hospital, we had kids telling us they wanted to take burn victim children to Family Park”, she says, “go ahead, do it, there are a hundred thousand ways you can help and the more you talk about the hospital, the more money we collect, the quicker the hospital will be finished”, she concludes.

 

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