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July 2020

Child Abuse Negl. 1995 Jul; 19(7): 837-41.

Pattern of intentional burns to children in Ghana.

Forjuoh SN.

Center for Injury Research and Control, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2582, USA.

Intentional (inflicted) injury to children through burns has been studied and mentioned extensively in the literature, although much less so in developing countries. A community-based survey of children aged 0-5 years in the Ashanti Region of Ghana found that of 650 childhood burns, 35 (5.4%) were purposefully inflicted. The perpetrators were mostly friends (43%) and siblings (37%) of the victims, and traditional healers (6%) who inflicted these burns to children who were comatose after convulsions. Intentional burns were more likely to be inflicted by flame (OR = 3.87, 95% CI = 1.52-10.0), and contact with a hot object (OR = 1.66, 95% CI = .62-4.44) than through scalding, the most common cause of burns in this region. Other patterns of intentional burns included the absence of any adult, burns covering < 3-5% of body surface area, and increased rate of wound infection. These findings contrast with the pattern of intentional burns seen in other countries, notably developed ones. Even though these inflicted burns were minor, it is important that doctors working in this setting become aware of their presence and that traditional healers and the general public be educated about the appropriate treatment for childhood convulsions.

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