First Aid Saves Lives

World First Aid Day is celebrated in over 190 countries around the world on the second Saturday of September annually, since it was introduced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the year of 2000. This year’s world First Aid Day which falls today (14) which will be under the theme “Addressing Exclusion through First Aid” can be considered as one of the most important days for the First Aiders, First Aid Trainers, General Public, Members of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other personnel engaged in First Aid and Humanitarian Services; who respond immediately right after an emergency situation around the globe in catering for the needs of victims to save their lives.

Through this article it is expected to make you understand the importance of First Aid as one of the most precious Life Skills which could be used immensely in saving lives in emergency situations. If the seed of neediness of learning first aid and the keenness in practicing the learnt first aid in day-to-day life is planted in you through this article, it would be a major accomplishment of this year’s World First Aid Day.

Founding of the Red Cross and First Aid Services

The Red Cross and Red Crescent movement which currently serves in 191 countries around the world with over 100 million volunteers, officers and members who work in an impartial and neutral manner in every aspect was established due to a disastrous incident that occurred in a battlefield in Northern Italy 160 years ago. On June 24, 1859, Jean Hendry Dunant; a young Swiss businessman was crossing the Solfareno Battlefield in Northern Italy.

He was shocked and devastated by the scenes of over forty thousand soldiers who were severely wounded and struggling in their deathbeds, starving without food for several days, dying in thirst and killed brutally with no mercy. This young Swiss businessman started to treat the wounded soldiers in both parties of the war with the help of the women and the civilians of the area with no discrimination in gender, age, nationality, politics, skin tone, religion or even cast. He also led them into other necessary processes such as message transferences, temporary hospital constructions and even assuring the health of war prisoners.

Through the book Memories of Solfarino which was written by Henry Dunant and published in the year of 1862 which was compiled with the experiences of the Solfarino war, paved the way to form the Red Cross movement which was initiated by forming the International Committee of Red Cross in 1863. Also, this book impacted in planting the seeds for the Geneva Conventions in 1864, which is a major consideration in modern day humanitarian law. The number of lives saved through the establishment of the Red Cross and implementation of these Geneva Conventions are undoubtedly numerous.

Victims of natural disasters which destroyed the lives of millions, first and second world wars and other hundreds of civil wars during the past 150 years, victims of road accidents, communicable diseases and other victims of man-made disasters who are both directly and indirectly affected will stand in evidence of the services done by Red Cross movement in uplifting their lives for a better life. Hundreds of thousands of our volunteers and workers around the globe working day and night are politely proud of their service on making the world a better place for living.

Importance of First Aid in General

With the gradual increase in the number of natural disasters in the world the need of humanitarian services have hiked than as it was in 1859. The loss of millions of lives annually, sufferings and pains of helpless, insufficient and improper resources and facilities with a proper standard to respond for such occasions have escalated the need of these humanitarian services. Therefore, first aid skills should be learnt and practised by everyone which can be used in aiding and securing millions of lives with simple acts.

There is no need of a proper prior educational background to learn and enhance first aid skills. Hence, it is easy and important to acquire these first aid skills by everyone. But if a person is not equipped with proper first aid skills and if he tries to help out a person in need during an emergency situation, it could put the life of that victim in danger. With the pure intention of helping the victims in road accidents, people do drag and carry the victims out of the vehicles and transport them to the nearest hospital immediately without a proper inspection and emergency help. On most occasions, these victims are taken to hospitals in three-wheelers and as a whole; which can result in the situation getting worse.

If you train and become competent in First Aid techniques it will surely become the most precious skill of your life since you can help others with confidence; your own family members, neighbours, friends and any other victim you come across in an emergency situation. You gain the competency of saving a precious life of a person by performing some simple techniques.

First Aid can be considered as a temporary form of help given to a wounded or unwell victim in an emergency situation using the available resources in the surroundings in an accepted mode of execution until the victim is given proper medical treatment. It can be also define as a scientific and technical series of acts which can be performed to save a life. Though these skills are not complex, it is identified as an important life skill since in some instances where the by standards claim that a person is not breathing and dead, those lives can be brought back to breathing condition with the use of proper first aid techniques.

Importance of First Aid for Sri Lanka

First Aid is important for all developed and underdeveloped countries. Countries such as Norway, England, France and Australia with excellent health care, emergency response and ambulance services have a percentage of more than 95% of people knowing these lifesaving basic First Aid techniques. Continuous programmes with high quality and standard are conducted and monitored to spread these lifesaving first aid techniques within the public.

There are plenty of reasons why First Aid is important to our country. According to the studies, approximately 38 lives are lost daily due to road accidents and it is calculated as 14,000 per annum. Out of those deaths, 10,000 are reportedly dead before the hospitalization. Millions of people are hospitalized annually due to both major and minor accidents in day-to-day life. Around 15,000 deaths are due to heart-attacks, 1,300 deaths are by drowning, 3,000 suicides and many more deaths are reportedly occurring annually. Domestic poisonings, choking, burns, snake bites, strains and sprains, electrocution, industrial accidents and other bone fractures are some situations which have caused thousands of deaths due to late and improper hospitalizations.

It has been calculated that a child death is occurs every fifteen hours from some sort of an accident. It reportedly extends upto 12 children per week, 50 children per month and 600 children per year. A child is hospitalized every two minutes for any cause and it extends upto 31 child hospitalizations per hour, 740 per month and 270,000 annually (Ref: Lady Ridgeway Hospital).

Reasons behind these are reported as dog bites, bone fractures, poisoning, choking, burns, drowning, road accidents, snake bites and other illnesses. Importance of fist aid arises in these situations. Hence, we should learn First Aid before an incident occurs. If your First Aid is thorough it could save the life of the victim. Similarly if your First Aid knowledge is poor, it could make the condition of the victim worse and may even lead to death.

In general, time taken to transport a patient from the scene of an accident to a hospital to provide proper medical treatment varies between 10 to 60 minutes. The actions and steps that can be taken by a first aider during this time span leads to decide the death or the life of the victim. News on choking in children and infants are reported daily even though their parents/ elders are along with them. A few seconds of negligence can be dangerous and lead to death. But with proper acts of first aid those valuable lives of children can be easily saved.

Emergency First Aid provided during the time a victim is transported to a hospital has led to the preserving of life, preventing the condition getting worse and even promoting the recovery process in most of the reported cases. This highlights the importance of knowing First Aid by everyone and can be used in every house, office, school, workshops or even roads.

If the breathing stops in an emergency, the victim may die within the first 5 to 10 minutes. If the victim has lost consciousness but still breathes, then his tongue may roll back blocking the airway leading to a chocking condition. However, by the simple act of “Heal Tilt – Chin Lift” and then transporting to the hospital in that same position of the unconscious breathing victim, life can be saved easily. These techniques are taught in a very simple manner in First Aid.

“Addressing Exclusion through First Aid”

Theme of this year’s World First Aid Day is “Addressing Exclusion through first aid”. An excluded group of people or a person can be considered as a person with less opportunity to reach a specific place, general society, facilities and also treated with less consideration and negligence by the society. These kinds of excluded groups can be found in any region, any country or any social state. Women, girls, senior citizens, prisoners, Aids/STD victims, children in streets or in labour work, children and youth in orphanages, transgendered personals, disputed people due to wars and natural disasters, labour, people of minor communities and races etc. can become neglected and discriminated by the modern day society depending on the social status of a region.

These socially excluded groups can be given the recognition of society despite their social strata and state by making them learn and competent in first aid and also making them engaged in social work and fulfill the need of humanitarian services through Red Cross as our volunteers or members.

Different programmes are being setup to commemorate World First Aid Day all around the country through the vast humanitarian volunteer and member network of Sri Lanka Red Cross Society which itself is made up with twenty five branches having each branch at each district. Since the establishment of Sri Lanka Red Cross Society in 1936, it has been serving the country for past 83 years in all disasters by its well reputed first aid services and other humanitarian assistance services. First Aid training and services are launched not only during disasters and emergency situations but also in other days of peace. Through these, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society was able to build the capacities of the society paving the way to preserve more lives from untimely deaths. Sri Lanka Red Cross Society also plays the prominent role of providing the best and well monitored first aid trainings with the British Standards in which successful participants are awarded with internationally recognized certificates.

The studies made by different organisations and the way people response to day-to-day accidents and emergency situations depicts that the knowledge and the practice of first aid in general public is very low in Sri Lanka. Therefore, a few steps can be taken to ensure that everyone can gain the benefits of knowing First Aid as in other well-developed countries. Being trained and ready with first aid skills today itself without delaying, making first aid education compulsory in schools, making it compulsory to have a first aid training to get or renew a driving license, providing first aid trainings for every institute and updating the trainees as required, introducing a first aid law in Sri Lanka are some of the key measures to be taken for safeguarding the lives of the people in emergencies.

- Compiled by Jayabuddhi Gnanathilaka

Translated by Arafaath Rahby

First Aid Instructors of

Sri Lanka Red Cross Society



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