Every day across Niger, children gather in straw huts that serve as schoolhouses. And every day across Niger, the hope of education is mixed with the risk of catastrophe.
On November 8, 2021, dozens of children were attending school in the country’s southern Maradi region when a fire broke out in their thatched-roof classroom. Within seconds, flames were everywhere. Fortunately, not every thatched-roof classroom at the school caught fire.
As uniquely terrible as this tragedy was, it was the second time in 2021 that a deadly fire claimed the lives of schoolchildren in Niger. In April, twenty preschool children were lost in a fire in Niamey, the country’s largest city.
November’s disaster was made worse by the country’s lack of medical resources to treat the burn victims. If left untreated, severe burns can cause life-threatening infections and leave severe, permanent scarring that often leads to burn contractures. When doctors in Maradi realized they lacked the technical expertise and the medical tools required to properly treat the children, they reached out to CURE Children’s Hospital of Niger for assistance.
“The First Lady of Niger called us to her office early February asking for assistance with five badly burned children, survivors of a fire that killed 26 children at a school in Maradi. She shared that she was losing sleep over it. A very tragic situation indeed, but this is why we are here: to serve children who have no one else to turn to with their medical needs. It is our mandate and privilege. And whether the request comes from the President’s wife or a mother from a village, we are here to serve and happy to come alongside local and international partners,” said George Găvruș, Executive Director of CURE Children’s Hospital of Niger.
After securing the required government approvals, CURE Niger sent Dr. Issa, a plastic/reconstructive surgeon, along with additional medical resources, to Maradi to treat the burn victims. The patients were too ill to travel to CURE Niger, which is located 400+ miles west of Maradi.
Last week, government officials — including the Governor of Maradi, Chaibou Aboubacar — held a public event, thanking CURE Niger for providing assistance.
“We say thank you,” said Governor Aboubacar. “I encourage you to continue the good work of helping the children and the population of Niger.”
In a country of over 24 million people, CURE Niger is the only hospital that offers specialized pediatric surgical care for children living with treatable physical disabilities. When tragedy struck in Niger, CURE Niger was ready to help because of the generosity of our donors, the professionalism of our staff, and motivated by God’s love.
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