A leading cause of injury and death among children

Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH), ChildSafe South Africa and the Children’s Hospital Trust join hands to raise awareness this National Burns Awareness Week.

Red Cross War Memorial Hospital, the Children’s Hospital Trust and ChildSafe South Africa join the global community in observing Burns Awareness Week (May 13 – 17), highlighting the devastating impact of burns on children. Burns are a leading cause of unnatural deaths among children aged 1-9 years 2022). [1].

RCWMCH admission statistics show an increase in admissions between June, July, and August, suggesting that injuries occur more frequently in winter due to practices such as the use of paraffin stoves, candles, and fires.

Burn injuries happen in an instant and can have a life-long physical, emotional, and financial impact, not only on the patient but on their families and communities too.

According to the World Health Organisation, burns are a leading cause of death among children worldwide, with an estimated 180,000 adult and paediatric deaths occurring annually. 96% of burn-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries and the rate of child deaths from burn related incidents are more than 7 times higher in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.[2]

In keeping with finding from other low and middle-income countries, South Africa faces a disproportionately high burden of burns among children. Previous South African estimates suggest that every year, 1 in 1666 children will be burnt per year (average annual rate of 6/100 000 child-years)[3] – however given the burden of cases treated at a local level – it is suspected that this is an underestimate.

In South Africa, it has been found that 94% of patients will receive treatment and are cared for by provincial facilities.[4]

The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH) is the leading tertiary referral centre for Paediatric Burns in the Western Cape and receives referrals from across Africa, whereas Tygerberg Hospital treats adult burns. RCWMCH remains the only referral centre offering advanced clinical care.

In 2023, 722 patients were admitted to the burns unit for inpatient care and 1051 new patients were seen at the outpatient’s clinic.

Patients are treated for range of burns from hot liquid burns, electrical burns, flame burns, chemical burns and hot water burns which is the most common type of burn amongst referral patients.

Approximately 82% of children referred to RCWMCH are treated for hot liquid burns (scalds).

Surgical Consultant of the burns unit at RCWMCH, Dr Tome Mendes says, “Not all burns require admission to a medical facility, but all require the appropriate wound care, as unattended wounds can lead to complications such as poor healing or infection which may lead to prolonged treatment.”

While world class treatment is available, prevention is vital.

Ms Zaitoon Rabaney, Executive Director at ChildSafe South Africa, a non-profit organisation, committed to injury prevention in children says, “We urge parents, caregivers, and communities to take simple yet effective precautions to prevent burns and ensure prompt medical attention when accidents occur, reinforce the risk and speak to children about the dangers of candles, matches, kettles, and hot bath water.”

The Children’s Hospital Trust, a non-profit organisation that raises funds to support the advancement of child healthcare across the Western Cape and the Continent, works closely with RCWMCH and the thousands of patients who are treated, annually.

The burns service at RCWMCH is one of the busiest services in the hospital, with children and their families travelling long distances to get to the hospital. The Trust is raising funds to spread the burns services care in the greater Western Cape to ensure that all children get access to high-quality paediatric healthcare service closer to their homes.

Ms Chantel Cooper, CEO of the Children’s Hospital Trust says, “Children from remote areas move from multiple health facilities with some having extended waiting time on ambulances before accessing the specialized care they urgently require at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. This not only delays crucial treatment, heightening infection risks and prolonging recovery periods but also places undue strain on families already grappling with immense challenges. With the Burns Project we want to strengthen burns services for children in the Western Cape to ensure earlier intervention, improve overall outcomes and reduce the burden on families who do not reside near Cape Town.”

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ISSUED BY: The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH) / ChildSafe South Africa / Children’s Hospital Trust


Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
Danielle Cargnelutti
Communication Officer
021 658 5448

ChildSafe South Africa
Shane Everts

Strategic Communications

Children’s Hospital Trust
Zodidi Dano
Communications officer

About Red Cross War Memorial Hospital

Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is South Africa’s only dedicated child health institution and offers a comprehensive range of specialist paediatric services to children. It is a centre of excellence for the training of all categories of child health professionals.

Children from all nine provinces of South Africa and from all over Africa are referred to the Hospital by referral hospitals, clinics and smaller hospitals. The hospital is active in paediatric outreach and support programmes across South Africa.

Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is regarded as South Africa’s leading centre for postgraduate specialist paediatric medical and surgical training. The hospital’s tertiary facility provides comprehensive dedicated paediatric services with a full range of sub-specialties at quaternary, tertiary and secondary levels of care.

About ChildSafe South Africa

ChildSafe South Africa is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to reduce and prevent injuries of children through Research, Education, and Advocacy. The organisation is a registered NPO with section 18A exemption who works with other non-profits, government, corporates and communities. Our core focus though is the prevention of unintentional injuries that are usually regarded as accidents, such as, burns, falls, drowning, road traffic crashes, choking and poisoning. For more information, visit

About Childen’s Hospital Trust

CHT Boiler plate:

At the Children’s Hospital Trust we believe every child should have access to the highest quality healthcare services they need close to their homes: to feel safe and comforted during times of illness and trauma; to be cared for in a nurturing environment, that is supportive of patient, family and staff wellbeing; and to be cared for by skilled and supported healthcare professionals equipped with the infrastructure and equipment needed to provide optimal care. The Children’s Hospital Trust is an independent non-profit organisation established in 1994. The Trust relies on the benevolence of donors to realise its aims and objectives. 100% of all donations go directly to prioritised paediatric healthcare needs and not a single cent is spent on administration costs.

Working in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Health, UCT Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH), the Trust has invested over R1 billion since 1994 towards improving public health infrastructure, training specialist paediatric health workers, and supporting the establishment of child public health projects. Core to achieving our vision is upholding our values of Integrity, Accountability, Kindness, Dynamism and Collaboration in every aspect of our work. The Trust enjoys a record of sound financial administration and good governance, but whilst it has raised funds to address many pressing needs, much has yet to be done. With your help we can continue to give hope and healing to our little ones who need it most.



[3] Rode H, Cox S, Numanoglu A, Berg A. Burns care in South Africa: a micro cosmos of Africa. Pediatr Surg Int. 2014 (30:699-706)

[4] The dilemma of treating major burns in South Africa | Rode | South African Medical Journal (