The image of Afghan children flying kites is iconic after the smash success of the novel and film “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, but the innocent pastime resulted in a terrible accident for an eight-year old Afghan boy.
The little boy was flying a kite with his older brothers on a quiet Friday afternoon in a residential area of Kabul and they began to squabble about whose turn it was to hold the kite string. In a moment of frustration, looking to upset his older brother, the little boy lit the string of the kite on fire. Things took a turn for the worse when the angry child noticed that there was a can of petrol that someone had carelessly left nearby and he doused some gas onto the burning kite string.
In a split-second the fire flashed up the petrol stream to the boy’s sleeve and set his entire shirt alight. Thankfully, his brother acted quickly, doused him in water immediately and successfully put the fire out. Unfortunately the fire had already done significant damage and the little boy suffered serious burns up the length of his arm and down the right side of his rib cage and back.
It is always a horror when a child is burned but in Afghanistan the horror continues after the fire is extinguished. Non-fatal burn injuries are a leading cause of morbidity in children and burns are the 11th leading cause of death of children aged 1–9 years (WHO 2012). If a burn is not treated quickly, infection is quick to set in and can be fatal.
After seeking medical help for three days in various hospitals the child’s parents were told he would have to be sent to Pakistan to be treated properly for his burns. Doctors in Kabul were doing their best but overcrowding due to the holiday Eid al-Fitr, an important Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, meant less attending staff and more domestic accidents requiring treatment.
Three days after the initial burn the child had still not been admitted to a hospital due to a lack of space and resources and his situation was becoming dire when doctors at Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital advised the parents to hold off on planning their trip to Pakistan for treatment as they had the broad-spectrum, injectable antibiotic Impenem in stock that would be an ideal medication to treat the child.
There is little doubt that infection would have taken the child’s life without the treatment.
(Please note that the identities of the people in this story are kept anonymous to protect their safety)