Despite severe legal action, acid attacks are considerably rising in countries such as India, as reported by Acid Survivors Foundation India (ASFI). Although over 800 cases have been reported in the past five years, several others go unreported. On an average, India encounters 100 to 500 acid attack cases annually.
Acid attacks are a human rights violation. The victims can be maimed, blinded or disfigured if emergency medical help is not sought immediately. Life can be irreversibly altered after an acid attack, and the victims who fight this every single day are true heroes. It is imperative to be aware of the first aid tips since acid attacks can occur in everyday life, without a warning bell. Here is how you can help the victim if such a situation arises.
- Wash the burnt area with clean fresh or saline water. Be careful to not wash it with dirty water as it can cause infection.
- Take care to ensure that the flow of flushed water is not in contact with any part of the body.
- Remove any jewellery worn on the injured parts of the body.
- Use sterilized gauze, if possible, to loosely wrap the affected area, in order to protect the skin from air, debris and dirt.
- Make sure an ambulance is called right away and rush the patient to the hospital preferably equipped with tertiary care facilities. Dial 102/108 for emergency medical services to get in touch with the nearest hospital.
- Don’t apply any cream, ointment, toothpaste, oil or butter on the burnt area.
- Don’t wash with cold water or ice.
- Don’t open or touch the blisters.
- Don’t remove any clothing that is stuck to the burnt area.
Acid attacks can prove fatal in the longer run too, since their destruction capabilities can go as far as dissolving bones, apart from melting the skin away. Acid attack can affect breathing abilities of the patient since fumes inhaled may cause further poisonous reaction or swelling of the lungs. It is paramount to take care of the burns even after days and months from the attack, since they can result in infections which can lead to death if not treated properly.
The attacks have a severe impact on the victim’s self-esteem owing to the social stigma, social alienation and psychological trauma of the patient. The victims need long term treatment as well as support from friends or family. There are a few organisations that work with acid attack victims where one could volunteer to know their lives better, and the magnanimous impact that it has had.
In terms of external help, a lot of CSR activities revolve around helping the victims get shelter especially when they need to travel for treatment. One could also contribute towards this cause by building occupational training facilities to help acid attack victims be independent workers in society. Since most victims come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, building an educational facility could also be a way to contribute positively.
Reports by ASFI have brought to light the increasing acid attacks across the country. The most casual looking people can indulge in this heinous crime, which entrusts us with the responsibility of being aware about the ways in which we can help minimize the damage caused by an acid attack and know the actions we need to take to help victims recover or mitigate the loss better. Be aware and call an ambulance if you ever encounter an acid attack.