Background: Pediatric burn injuries are one of the leading causes of preventable morbidity and mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa. Research on the complex system of social, economic and cultural factors contributing to burn injuries in this setting is much needed.
Methods: We conducted a prospective questionnaire-based analysis of pediatric burn patients presenting to the Hospital Central de Maputo. A total of 39 patients were included in the study. Interviews were conducted with the children's caretakers by two trained medical students at the Eduardo Mondlane Medical School in Maputo with the aid of local nursing staff.
Results: Most burns occurred from scald wounds (26/39) particularly from bathwater, followed by fire burns (11/39). Burns occurred more frequently in the afternoon (16/39) and evening (16/39). Over one quarter of burns (9/33) occurred in the absence of a caretaker. One-third (12/36) of participants attempted to treat the burn at home prior to bringing the child into the hospital, and roughly two-thirds (24/37) reported using traditional remedies for burn care. The average household had just 2 rooms for an average of 5 family members. Most burns were second degree (25/37).
Conclusions: Prevention efforts in this setting are much needed and can be implemented taking complex cultural and social factors into account. Education regarding regulation of water temperature for baths is important, given the prevalence of scald burns. Moreover, the introduction of low-cost, safer cooking technology can help mitigate inhalation injury and reduce fire burns. Additionally, burn care systems must be integrated with local traditional medical interventions to respect local cultural medicinal practices.
Keywords: Burns; Health systems strengthening; Sub-Saharan Africa.