Sri Lankan surgeon Wijaya Godakumbura battled apathy and ignorance to prevent people being disfigured by burns caused by unstable, home-made lamps. His invention, the Safe Bottle Lamp, has saved many lives.
In Sri Lanka, household accidents resulting in severe burns used to be commonplace. While a large proportion of homes now have access to electricity, makeshift lamps used to cause disfiguring burns, and often death.
Where is the sense in preventing disease if we do not also seek to prevent injury that is equally destructive of people’s lives?
Dr Godakumbura launched a campaign to make and distribute thousands of Safe Bottle Lamps: small, squat devices with two flat sides and a safe metal screw cap, making them more stable and sturdy. The enterprising surgeon, with the help of his Rolex Award funding and other contributions, was the driving force behind almost one million of these safe, low-cost lamps being distributed to poor families in Sri Lanka.
Godakumbura receives inquiries from around all the world for the lamp design, which he shares freely. The Award stimulated an interest in injury prevention, the focus of his continuing work. To date, he has given presentations about this subject at international conferences in 16 countries, including France and Vietnam.
Families helped by the Safe Bottle Lamp