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Household energy-related morbidity and mortality surveillance at a specialised burns unit in Durban, South Africa
  1. D Swart,
  2. R Paulsen*,
  3. Y Desai
  1. Correspondence The Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa, 125 Blevedere Rd. Claremont, Cape Town 7740, South Africa


The Paraffin Safety Association (PASASA) of Southern Africa is a non-profit organisation established in 1996 to ensure that paraffin/kerosene use, as a domestic energy option, is safe for especially low income households. One of the many challenges that PASASA must overcome is the collection and interpretation of robust surveillance data relating to household energy use. In 2005 a National Household Energy-related Injury Surveillance System incorporating GIS technology was established. This paper discusses data collected at a specialised Burns Unit housed at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban. Almost a third of patients admitted were under the age of 2 years. Most of the patients were women contrasting with international findings. Most of the injuries occurred during the early hours of the morning caused primarily by scalds (48%) and flame (39%) burns. Of the recorded cases of the energy source associated with the burn injury, 21% was caused by electricity and 7% by paraffin. Most of the injuries (88%) occurred in the home while children were playing. Thirty percent of patients had body surface burns of 11–20% and 28% had body surface burns of over 30%. Thirty-seven percent of patients were diagnosed with partial thickness burn and 24% with full thickness burns. Data will also be presented on the number of skin grafts, surgical debridements, length of stay in hospital and cause of death. This paper also addresses challenges to develop and maintain this surveillance system and the implications to develop appropriate health promotion interventions.

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