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The North East burns prevention team helping children in Tanzania

By Helen Ford, Health Correspondent

There was a joyful welcome from pupils when we arrived at Kilimanjaro Primary School in the town of Moshi. The children greeted us with a song, in English, before their lesson began.

Although there were English sentences on the blackboard, today's studies were not about reading or writing. Instead the focus was on skills that could save a life.

Sadly, burns are an all-too-common feature of life in Tanzania and often involve children. Accidents can happen as a result of open fires for cooking and the use of kerosene for heating.

That's why burns prevention and first aid has become an important element of a partnership between the North East health trust, Northumbria Healthcare, and a hospital in Moshi. ITV Tyne Tees joined the team in Tanzania to report on the work to mark the link's twentieth anniversary.

Nurse Sophie Robson creates a fake burn on her colleague Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

It was striking to hear almost all the pupils confirm they knew someone who had been burned. All sat transfixed as Newcastle nurses Emma Forster and Sophie Robson led a series of role play exercises.

As well as helping the children to avoid burns, the team gave one key message: burns that do happen should be treated immediately with water, and lots of it.

While the team was aiming its message at children, the hope is that they will pass it on to friends and family.

Nurses Emma and Sophie lead the burns prevention class Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

As you know, kids are very good teachers. They can teach many, many, many in the community. Remember, if there are ten, twenty kids, they can teach a hundred people in their community.

– Amina Swai, Kilimanjaro Primary School
Pupils watch their classmates act out a scene Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Serious burns can have a major impact in many ways; for example, if a breadwinner is prevented from working, or families have to find money for costly treatment and medicines.

It can make you very, very poorly especially in this environment where they don't have access to the treatment we have at home. It can affect your function, it can then affect how you go on in your day to day life. Can you get a job? It can be very disfiguring which is obviously very, very traumatic as it would be for anybody.

– Sophie Robson, burns nurse

They don't get such opportunities to be educated about how they can prevent, how they can become aware of the risks and how can they help each other. To have a session with the kids it's really amazing, it's really important. We believe that these are the generation of tomorrow so the message has to start from a very early stage.

– Godwin Kabalika, Tropical Health and Education Trust
Nurse Peter Smith gives first responder training to bikers Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

The team's community work extends beyond schools. Later, we watched nurse Peter Smith provide first responder training to a group of motor bikers; giving them the knowledge they need should they come across an accident.

Later, the team discovered that two bikers who were trained last year had since put their skills to the test in real life situations.

The message may be relatively simple. The hope is that the impact will be huge.

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