Burns survivor uses painful experience to protect others - 09 June 2024

Department of Health 2024/06/09 - 22:00

​By Koketso Maraba


Zikhaya Sithole (41), a burns survivor from Orange Farm in Johannesburg is using his experience to raise awareness on avoiding burns this winter. 

Sithole joined the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH)'s Clinical Forensic Medical Services (CFMS), Johannesburg Disaster Management Center, Johannesburg Emergency Medical Services, Egoli Gas, City Power and Burns Shield as they set out to Johannesburg CBD to educate the community about the safe use of electric and fire-related materials through the Burns and Risks Awareness campaign.

Sithole became a hero to the community of Orange Farm after he managed to save one of the children who were trapped inside a burning house.  In his effort to rescue the second child, the flames escalated, and he sustained burns on his face and arms. It is unclear how the fire started, however, Sithole said that the most common mistake is leaving children unattended with candles lights, heaters and stoves on.

Through the assistance of Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital's burns unit, physiotherapists who helped him regain movement in his hands, and an operation to restore sight in his left eye, Sithole has recovered and has conducted public engagements telling his story and encouraging communities to be warry of mishandling flammable items. 

During the awareness sessions, he cautioned the public against leaving open flames unattended, forgetting to switch off electrical appliances especially during power outages, closing the gas cylinder correctly after use, and not monitoring children when candles and heaters are on. 

"Poor handling of electrical appliances and gas cylinders can be very dangerous. It is important that communities protect their lives by not sparking fires," said Sithole. 

Most of these burns occur in winter due to people trying to keep warm with hot beverages, fires, and electric appliances such as heaters and electric stoves.

Victor Chauke, a forensic scientist from CFMS said that it is important for people to blow out candles before going to sleep, to keep them away from flammable objects, and to keep them away from children. Some households do not have electricity, so they need to pay more attention to the gas pressure when cooking and safely use paraffin stoves while keeping them away from flammable items. 

According to the World Health Organization 300 000 people die annually due to flame or fire-related burns globally. 

The GDoH is running an awareness campaign to bring awareness on the causes of burns and prevention methods.


Tags: Burns Awareness


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