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Doctors unveil first child blast wound manual

The guide was put together by British aid agency Save the Children and experts at Imperial College London at the request of Syrian medics working in the bloody eight-year civil war.

Syrian Maya Merhi (L) stands with her friends in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp of Serjilla in northwestern Syria next to Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, on 9 December 2018. Picture: AFP

LONDON – Doctors and rights activists unveiled on Thursday the world's first field manual for the treatment of child casualties from explosions, which they say cause almost three-quarters of juvenile deaths and injuries in war zones.

The guide was put together by British aid agency Save the Children and experts at Imperial College London at the request of Syrian medics working in the bloody eight-year civil war.

"It starts from the point when something goes 'bang' and a child is exposed to that explosion," former British army surgeon Paul Reavley, one of the the manual's authors, told AFP.

"It then follows the child on a care pathway and focuses on the key differences of children compared to adults," Reavley said ahead of the launch at the Peace Palace in The Hague.

Save the Children said suicide bombs, landmines, grenades, unexploded ordinance, air strikes and other forms of explosives "account for 72% of all child deaths and injuries across the world's deadliest war zones".

In Syria, the figure was 83%.

The agency used UN figures from what it said were the five deadliest conflicts for children, in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

"This manual is a world-first guide to the unique procedures needed to keep children alive and help them recover fully following the catastrophic injuries from explosive weapons," it added.

Written in simple language, the illustrated 176 pages are a step-by-step guide on how to treat children hurt by explosions from the point of injury to post-treatment psychological and social support.

The pages are designed to be easily photographed on a mobile phone and can be downloaded from the internet for free.

"The Paediatric Blast Injury Field Manual gives medical staff in conflict settings... the knowledge and technical guidance needed specifically to treat children," said Save the Children director Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

"Children's bodies are different. They aren't just small adults," added Major-General Michael von Bertele, former British Army Medical Services director general.

"Their skulls are still not fully formed and their underdeveloped muscles offer less protection. So a blast is more likely to damage their brain and lungs or tear apart organs in their abdomen, even when there's no visible damage," he said.

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