In Sierra Leone, Humanity & Inclusion is helping survivors of a fuel tank explosion access specialized rehabilitation care.
On Nov. 5, 2021, the explosion of a fuel tanker in Freetown killed more than 100 people and injured another 100. Facing a fuel shortage in the country, people gathered around the wreckage, collecting gasoline that leaked from the truck – then it exploded.
Humanity & Inclusion set up an emergency response to assist people burned in the incident, as well as survivors experiencing psychological trauma. After identifying affected individuals, the organization helped them gain access to mental health and specialized physical therapy. Almost two months after the explosion, survivors share their stories of recovery.
Humanity & Inclusion visited 201 people impacted by the blast: 133 family members of people killed or reported missing, and 68 survivors of the incident.
Among them was Mohamed, who received rehabilitation care for severe burns.
“I got burnt on my left ankle. I didn’t know what to do after being injured and I was afraid that the police would come and take me if I went to the hospital,” he says. “So I went back home and tried to take care of it on my own.”
Mohamed lives 15 miles from the site of the explosion.
“I was home when the Humanity & Inclusion team located me,” he explains. “They advised me to go to the nearest hospital to avoid infection. I received a treatment, including physical therapy, which is helping me. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to the hospital, as I couldn’t walk without a crutch. Now I am getting better day by day.”
To help patients get to their medical appointments, Humanity & Inclusion provides reimbursements for transportation costs.
“I am receiving treatment at Rokupa Government Hospital, about 30 minutes away from where I live in Old Wharf,” explains Mariatu, who was also injured in the incident. “Considering my condition, it’s difficult for me to attend daily care, as I have no income. Humanity & Inclusion supports me with transportation fees. It is so far the best support that I’ve received. I am now getting better every day.”
Humanity & Inclusion also created and distributed 800 leaflets with information about burn care, burn prevention and first aid tips to explain the complications risk and the importance of follow-up care.
Burn care expertise
When caring for burn injuries, physical therapy is essential during acute care in the hospital and long after discharge to avoid secondary complications and long-term functional limitations, which may lead to disabilities. With support from Humanity & Inclusion, 44 survivors received physical therapy.
Humanity & Inclusion deployed a physical therapist specialized in burn care to provide capacity building support for rehabilitation workers at the National Rehabilitation Center. The National Rehabilitation Center also deployed one rehabilitation worker in a community center to ensure continuity of care after the patients are discharged from the hospital. At the emergency hospital, 17 nurses and nine physical therapists were trained in burn care and physical rehabilitation care for patients with burn injuries.
“We are grateful for the burn training we have received,” says Emily, who leads the rehabilitation team. “The training was short but our team acquired vast knowledge, which is going to help us in our practice.”