Image Source: Acid Survivors' Foundation Uganda
Views from Fiona: Acid Attack Survivors
Challenged but not defeated.
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First published: March 29, 2007
Over the years, acid attack victims in Uganda have increased in number making throwing acid at people one of the deadliest ways of harming rivals. The most immediate result of acid thrown at humans is burns and dissolved skins and flesh.
The acid burns and kills the flesh under the dissolved skin, exposing the bones underneath. Most of the time, the acid is aimed at the faces of the victims and if it is not washed away immediately with water, it can cause total blindness (which can also depend on the quantity and quality of the acid that gets in contact with the victim). The higher the concentration of the acid, the worse the resulting burns. Long term effects include but are not limited to permanent disfigurement and scarring of the skin where the acid got in contact with the victim. In some cases, death results. Survivors are often shunned by the community and with that comes the stigma attached to ugliness, the unusual and disfigured way they look.
Other long term effects include scarring of the skin, eyelids, nostrils, ear canals and mouth. In all cases, the victim experiences a lack of will to live and excruciating pain. It is difficult for them to get re-accepted in their communities, find work or have a happy social and domestic life. This lowers their self esteem and they badly need counseling, love and care.
Victims of this heinous crime often ask, "Why me?" There are several reasons behind acid attacks. These may include greed, business rivalry, mistaken identity and pure jealousy. Acid throwing is a human rights abuse and should be treated as a criminal offence but the perpetrators in Uganda have often been let off the hook by way of receiving very lenient sentences and in some cases receiving no sentences at all for 'lack of evidence'. This is sometimes attributed to victims' failure to report attacks in good time or their lack of legal representation.
This is where the Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda comes in. They provide the victims with reconstructive surgery, counseling, peer support and a source of livelihood. The Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda [ASFU] is an organization concerned with helping the survivors and has brought hope to them. This organization has helped many victims obtain counseling, legal support and generally raised awareness about their plight in the media and other publications to sensitize the public about the evils of this violence. Through rehabilitation programmes and economic empowerment initiatives the survivors have generally received help and been integrated back into their communities. For example, an income generating project was created in January 2006 known as the Pressure Garment Unit (PGU) to produce specialised medical garments for acid burns.
Halima, a 26 year old clothes vendor, was attacked by her brother-in-law in January 2004. Halima had earlier invited her sister to live at her house because of the sister's marital problems. Blaming her for the separation, her brother in-law set out to revenge by throwing acid at her. On the fateful evening, she responded to a knock at her door. The attacker threw a bucket of acid at her and ran off. Neighbours gave chase and in the process retrieved one of his shoes which was turned over to police as evidence. The attack left her badly injured, scarred and blind in one eye. She spent the next eight months in hospital. Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda helped her find justice and her attacker is serving a 16 year sentence and Halima has obtained a grant to set up her own stall in Owino (St.Balikuddembe) market, Kampala.
It is estimated that 55-60% of acid attack victims are women and there is a lot to be done to sensitize the public against the deadly habit of throwing acid and for the community to accept the victims as people who need lots of care and love to live a meaningful life. The problem is acid is cheap to buy and available in many outlets. The Government of Uganda needs to regulate the importation of acid along with other harmful chemicals and the places where it is sold.
Innocent victim Paul; This Ugandan baby was attacked together with his mother in a mistaken identity acid throwing incident.
The Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda (ASFU), an organization concerned by the horrendous stories of survivors has brought hope to the victims. The rehabilitation programme and economic empowerment of survivors have generally helped the victims to integrate back into their communities.
As a community, we have a duty to advocate for a free world and help in any way to make the lives of victims in Uganda and elsewhere meaningful. Justice delayed is justice denied. Some cases have stagnated and the victims are psychologically tortured, knowing the perpetrators of this crime were not brought to book. Acid throwing is a heavy crime and anybody who commits this crime should face the full wrath of justice. Hopefully, this will help stem more acid throwing incidents and help those already suffering to find some closure to bad memories of the attacks.
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First published: March 29, 2007
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