New Vision (Kampala)

14 December 2012

Uganda: How Domestic Violence Affects Innocent Children

Hanifa Nakiryowa, 30, and her youngest daughter were burnt with acid last year. While the little girl escaped with minor injuries, Nakiryowa's face was damaged. The prime suspect was her husband, who is a lecturer at Makerere University.

Nakiryowa's six-year-old daughter captured the horrific incident in two drawings. One of the drawings shows her father paying a man who later poured acid on her mother and how her mother was attacked while she was standing in front of their home.

Her family later revealed that Nakiryowa's daughter had stopped using her father's name, which had been registered at school.

While looking at her sister's scars, she commented how she wished she could go far away where her father would never attack her mother and sister again. On taking her aside, she narrated how her mother who had separated from her father, had come to pick the children after a weekend with him.

When their mother knocked at the door, her father ordered the children to remain quiet, while he shifted from the sitting room to the dining room.

She narrated how, on a Saturday at their father's place, one of her father's female friends accompanied them for swimming. This young girl made a statement at Police.

Nakiryowa who lives in constant fear of another attack from the husband confessed that she shudders to imagine what would have happened to her children if she had died after the acid attack.

"They are young and I know what step-mothers can do to such children, especially if their mother is dead!" she said. Her thoughts are justifiable given that many street children say they fled from their homes because they were being mistreated by their step-mothers.

Nakiryowa adds that in cases of domestic violence victims get little help from the Police. "A Police officer asked me whether there was any witness who saw me getting burnt!" she fumed.

Nakiryowa is bitter that even after she was burnt, she continued receiving threats from her estranged husband via e-mails, but when she showed them to a police woman, she laughed and said the email message is not proof enough!

What a counsellor says

Monnie Lubega, a counsellor at Makerere Counselling and Guidance Centre, explains this young girl is so traumatised by the incident.

She suspects that the girl could be getting nightmares and may hate men. "She may decide not to get into any intimate relationship when she grows up so that she does not fall victim to men like her mum did," Lubega says.

She adds, on the other hand, if the mother is not counselled she may fail to work to cater for herself and the children.

First aid for acid burns victims

Flush burns with lukewarm, gently flowing water for 20-30 minutes. Do not use cold water or ice, as these can interfere with healing. If irritation persists, repeat flushing.

Under running water, remove clothing or any other item touching the skin. Keep the items in a plastic bag for evidence.

Eyes: Immediately flush the contaminated eye(s) with lukewarm water for 20-30 minutes while holding the eyelid(s) open.

When helping an acid burn victim:

Do not take off any clothing that is stuck to the burn.

Do not soak the burn in water. Cover the area with a or clean cloth. Cool the burn with running water or a cold damp cloth.

Do not use ice, towels or blankets as they will damage the skin.

Do not use butter or ointments if it is a severe burn.

Make sure the person is breathing.

Give the victim a pain reliever

Adapted from online sources

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