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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Post-election violence 2008 - Index of articles & images


  • Guidelines for helpers of injured victims of violence
    Dr. Alex Stevenson
    June 06, 2008

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    The purpose of this manual is to teach you to help injured victims of violence as much as possible. Zimbabweans are under daily, vicious assault in overwhelming numbers. The hospital system cannot cope - and a clinic or hospital is often very far away. If we can identify and treat some of the people ourselves, we can help free up resources at the hospitals for the seriously ill patients.

    As a Helper you will be required, and able, to provide three vital services:

    1) Educate relatives about how to care for an injured person at home, if it is safe.
    2) Look after and monitor those people who are too sick to return home.
    3) Identify those people who need transfer to hospital and decide how urgently that needs to be done.

    Before going any further it is important to understand two things:

    • Firstly, this manual is aimed at people in Zimbabwe right now, with no medical training, to do their best in very difficult situations. It is not going to be perfect but will hopefully help.
    • Secondly, you have to think about your own health.

    1. Blood can be infectious. If the blood from someone with HIV or other infections gets into your own blood stream you may get infected too. As long as you don't have any open cuts on your hands and don't get blood in your eyes or mouth this is unlikely. It is up to you however to decide how much risk you want to take. If possible use gloves, plastic bags can be used as a substitute. If you don't have these and have an open wound or are very worried about catching HIV then you can still do a lot of good, but just avoid touching blood. You can direct the patient to clean and dress their own wounds under your guidance. Put bloody clothing in a plastic bag if possible for the injured or their family to deal with later. Try and burn or bury dressings that have been used on wounds.

    2. The people who beat up your patient may come and beat you up too. This is the terrible reality of life in Zimbabwe. It's up to you where and when you treat people. You will know best what your particular security situation is where you are.

    3. Helpers can sometimes become very upset by what they see. This is only natural as a human being. If you find this happening to you, talk to someone else about it. If this doesn't help, then think about helping in some other way rather than treating people at the front line.

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