Leading British doctors are training Ukrainian medics on how to treat children who have been injured by explosive weapons in a first-of-its-kind series.
A webinar series titled Support for Ukraine – Paediatric Blast Injury has been produced in response to the numbers of child hurt by explosive weapons over the past year. To date, over 1,000 children have been confirmed killed or injured since the start of the conflict, with fears that actual numbers are likely to be much higher.
Research has shown that children are seven times more likely to die from blast injuries than adults as they have soft chests, abdomens and skulls that are easily penetrated by blast fragments and waves, as well as flexible limbs that are also easily dismembered.
“Doctors in Ukraine are telling us blast injuries have become so frequent, it’s almost the new normal. It’s a horrific reality, but one that needs to be addressed which is why this training is a lifeline for doctors treating children with devastating injuries,” said Dr Rostyslav Bezuhlyy, a Ukrainian Accident and Emergency Medicine Consultant based in Bristol.
The Support for Ukraine webinar series is a collaborative project produced by Save the Children, British Orthopaedic Association (BOA), British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) and Paediatric Blast Injury Partnership (PBIP), a coalition of doctors and experts founded by the children’s charity and Imperial College London.
The current series which began in January, will see 15 UK surgeons delivering expert training online over the next five months where already, over 100 Ukrainian medics have taken part.
Dr Paul Reavley, Consultant Paediatric Emergency Physician at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, a former UK military doctor, led the first training session. He said:
“It is devastating that many children are seriously injured by explosive weapons in the world today. There are an estimated 230 million children living in high intensity conflict zones, defined by areas with more than 1,000 conflict deaths per year.
“Very few of us see severely injured children; we have to deal with the unfamiliarity and psychological barriers to treating a child with conflict injuries. On top of the emotional challenges that comes with, there are also technical difficulties of dealing with this kind of injury on smaller patients.”
The training initiative expands upon the Paediatric Blast Injury Field Manual – the world’s first handbook for child blast injuries designed for first responders, doctors and surgeons and those providing aftercare for children in war zones who often lack specialist training. It is a comprehensive guide to injuries suffered by children from attacks like airstrikes, and weapons like artillery and landmines. It features step-by-step instructions that cover situations ranging from resuscitating children on the battlefield and saving limbs, to rehabilitation and psychological care.
The manual was developed by Paediatric Blast Injuries Partnership established by Save the Children and Imperial College London in 2019 and has been translated into sixlanguages. It has been distributed in conflict zones including Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and will be sent to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Save the Children has been operating in Ukraine since 2014, delivering essential humanitarian aid to children and their families. This includes supporting their access to education, providing psychosocial support, distributing winter kits and hygiene kits, and providing cash grants to families so they can meet basic needs such as food, rent and medicines, or so they could repair their housings damaged in hostilities.