Acid attacks on women are an increasing occurrence in Colombia. The attackers are often ex-boyfriends or stalkers whose intent is to inflict devastating facial injuries on their victims.

The victims’ lives are forever altered by the attacks and the social stigma that follows. Everyday tasks such as working and even mothering become extremely difficult if not impossible.

In 2013, we recruited international burn care expert Dr. Mohammad Jawad to lead an acid care training mission at Simón Bolivar Hospital in Bogotá, Colombia, where many acid attack victims are treated.

Through Dr. Jawad’s initial training, and subsequent training workshops and missions led by Physicians for Peace, the staff at Simón Bolivar Hospital has instituted drastic protocol changes in acid wound treatments. To help lessen facial disfigurement, acid attack victims are treated earlier and with different techniques.

“With acid attack victims we have completely changed our surgical protocol,” says Dr. Jorge Luis Gaviria (third from left in picture), a plastic surgeon treating acid attack victims at Simón Bolivar.

“Before PFP, we operated four, five, eight days after injury. When PFP came with Dr. Jawad, we learned that the skin continues to burn until it is surgically removed. Now, our protocol is surgery within the first 24 hours. Can you imagine all that time we wasted? But now, with early surgery we have much better outcomes because infection is reduced and the injury severity is less, which decreases the recovery time.”