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Horrible encounters

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Until now I haven’t seen many horrible things during this trip. Sure, I’ve seen inhuman poverty, terribly mutilated people, but that changed just now.

For my first excursion in months, I joined up with a young French couple. After a tiring walk in sometimes bitter cold weather (despite 4 layers of clothing) we arrived at a hill tribe village. It was deep in the forest, over 40 km away from the nearest ‘city’ of 8.000 inhabitants. 

We decided to spend the night there, left our daypacks and continued to another one to ‘sample the atmosphere’. Once we arrived we noticed that this village was even poorer than the first one, the children more shy of strangers and the men and women still wore traditional clothes.

As it started raining (again) our guide took us to the central hut in the village where we were offered a cup of tea by the village chief. As we sat there drinking our tea, the chief asked the guide a question, who translated to me something like: ‘have medication, baby water?’. I had only taken plaster spray against blisters, so I responded negatively. I asked what the issue was, maybe I could help? I was then directed towards a room at the other side of the big hut and witnessed an imagine I will never forget.

In a smoke filled room a woman was cooking and a kid of a couple of years old lay on a couple blankets. Half his chest, his neck and part of his arms were covered in fresh 2nd or 3rd degree wounds, obviously caused by burning.

I asked again what happened. Apparently, the kid had been left alone and wanted some water… I stood there helpless. I asked the French trip mates, whether they had anything. Fortunately, they were better equipped than I was and had some materials for cleaning wounds and bandages. However, it was clear that the kid needed professional help. 

We asked if they had been to the hospital. They confirmed, but said that they didn’t like the treatment he received, as he had been in a lot of pain. We suggested several times that he should return for additional treatment. They ignored. After Claire, the French girl, had cleaned the wound and we had stood there watching the boy suffer, we left for the village where we would spend the night. Upon our departure we re-explained the necessity of keeping the wounds clean and left some money for hospital treatment if they’d change their minds.

Saddened, by our incapacity to make a more significant change in the life of the boy we walked ‘home’ in silence.

After a terrible massage and an even worse night sleep, our horrific adventure wasn’t over. We were packed up, ready to leave for our second day of trekking and doubting whether we should return to the kid when an even younger child was presented to us. This time the burning wound was much smaller (hand until elbow), but in addition to the blisters it was ‘decorated’ with a horrible yellow and green infection. I’m no doctor, but even I could see that it wasn’t looking good. The input was the same: keep the wounds clean, go to the hospital, the result as well: a combination of refusal and ignoring. 

His mother was delighted with the money we put in his not-burned hand.

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