Phoenix Burns Project

PBP Forum on The Rights of Child Burn Survivors
  January 26, 2008

The first Phoenix Forum of 2008 brought together stakeholders from the medical community and children's rights organisations to discuss the rights of child burn survivors.

Lois Law of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office described international agreements on the rights of children as they pertain to child burn survivors. She pointed out that the lack of protection against avoidable accidents kills 10 children a day in South Africa, with burns being a leading cause of death and devastating injury.

Ms Law noted that "burn survivors seem to fall through the cracks when it comes to the question of defining criteria" for support and that "this presents a difficulty in the accessing of health and social services and other supportive services."

Ms Law noted a number of measures that should be taken to ensure that children's right to a safe environment is respected and upheld. These include education programmes, coupled to policy and advocacy initiatives at various levels.

Mira Dutschke of the Children's Institute at the University of Cape Town presented a rights-based framework to address the multifaceted challenges facing child burn survivors. This approach provides a rigorous method to identify rights violations in terms of internationally accepted children's rights and national statutory obligations to safeguard various children's rights.

Ms Dutschke showed how South African Constitution underpins the rights of children in South Africa and how it places a responsibility on the various duty bearers to ensure that these rights are not violated. In the first instance the parent or caregiver is the duty bearer with primary responsibility for the child, but where this person is unable to fulfil that responsibility, the State is responsible to ensure that the child's rights are not violated. This is a responsibility that affects all government Departments, she said. She illustrated this point with a case study of a child burnt at home while in the care of a teenage sibling. She analysed the causes and results of the incident in terms of rights violations and identified the relevant duty bearer Departments. She concluded that this rights-based approach would be a powerful way to raise awareness of the issue across government.