Acid attacks are perpetrated in a number of countries and more often than not against women by their partners or other family members. While all forms of violence against women are deplorable acid attacks are particularly abhorrent and require a level of premeditation and planning unsurpassed by many other forms of violence. They leave a legacy of pain, disfigurement and abject misery for the vast majority of survivors. Reconstructive surgery and a package of measures put together to support such survivors are the crucial first step towards rebuilding their lives.
Islamic Help has been providing specialist medical and surgical support to acid burns victims since 2009. Acid burns are painful; burnt and scarred tissue is constricting and restricting of movement of the head, limbs, neck and other parts affected by the attack. In addition, facial burns and scarring have a visual impact on survivors and others that see them. Early surgical intervention is essential and the surgery we have been providing over the last few years, led by world renowned surgeon Dr Muhammad Ali Jawad, has had a significant impact on survivors. Apart from the obvious impact on a physical level our intervention is key to survivors re-gaining their confidence and to rebuilding their lives. We also provide survivors with opportunities to explore income generation, earn a livelihood and move towards self-sufficiency so that they can support themselves and be fully fledged members of society once again.
The work of Islamic Help and Dr Muhammad Ali Jawad was featured in 'Saving Face' which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short in 2012, and two Emmy Awards (Best Documentary and Outstanding Editing: Documentary and Long Form) in 2013. The film profiles two Pakistani acid survivors and documents their journeys to rehabilitation and to getting justice for themselves and other survivors.
In furtherance of our work in this field, we have worked with partners to expand the reach of our Smiles Better Campaign to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uganda, Nepal and Cambodia. We are tackling the issue of acid related violence on the following fronts:
- Increasing the medical capacity and support to acid burns survivors in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Uganda, and Pakistan.
- Providing livelihood opportunities to survivors of acid attacks so as to facilitate their rehabilitation and to provide them with independence and income generating power.
- Raising public awareness of the issue which is fundamental to reducing the incidence of attacks and to influencing public opinion on the issue.
- Awareness training for Imams, leaders and village elders in Pakistan to address the issue of acid violence and the wider issues surrounding gender based violence.
The Smiles Better Campaign is supported by Islamic Help's ambassador, Katie Piper. Herself a survivor of a brutal acid attack she has been campaigning tirelessly to raise awareness of the growing phenomenon of acid attacks and to fundraise for other survivors. Her remarkable story, which was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary - Katie: My Beautiful Face and is also recounted in her book Beautiful has inspired so many to support the campaign.
“I am very proud to be an Ambassador for Islamic Help. I have been affiliated with them for a number of years and very much admire the work that they do. Having been a victim of an acid attack myself, I know too well the devastation caused as a result and the impact it has on someone's life. I was lucky enough to be treated in the UK and have some of the best treatment. I have so much respect for Islamic Help because they are striving to help those who live in developing countries and provide the type of surgical support necessary that they would not otherwise have had”.
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