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Girls & Women

An Ethiopian Mother Was the Victim of a Shocking Acid Attack

Two months ago, Atsede Nigussiem opened the door to her estranged husband, and, in a moment, her life changed.

To her shock, her husband Haimanot Kahsai suddenly poured acid all over her face.

Her 5-year-old son was sleeping in the house as his father fled and his mother ran into the street calling out for help, according to the Daily Mail.

Read more: Acid Attacks Are on the Rise in London: Here’s What You Should Do If You Witness One

Nigussiem, 26, had been at her parents’ home in Tigray, Ethiopia, when her husband of five years knocked on the door and launched the acid attack. The couple had lost contact after Kahsai moved to Yemen for work in February, according to the Daily Mail.

“I don't know why my husband did this,” Nigussiem writes, no longer able to speak. “I just opened the door and it happened. I'm heartbroken and in pain.”

Nigussiem was rushed to the hospital, but her burns are extensive.

Read more: Acid Attack Victims, Cast Out by Society, Are Helping Each Other Thrive

She has lost sight in one eye and is close to losing sight in the other. Her mouth has been melted shut, so she is only able to eat and drink through a straw. And the burns on her face, chest, back of her head, and legs mean she is constantly in pain.

Her severe wounds require attention from specialists, so she is now in Bangkok, Thailand where doctors are working to save her remaining eyesight and treat her skin. Though Nigussiem reported the attack to the police, 29-year-old Kahsai had already fled.

Ethiopia’s laws do not explicitly mention acid or corrosive substances, except in instances of terrorist attacks, according to its criminal code. Acid attacks are often perpetrated against women in domestic violence or so-called “honor-based” violence incidents.

Read more: Honor Killings: Everything You Should Know, and Why They Aren't Honorable

Though these attacks happen around the world to both men and women, they are most prevalent in Bangladesh and India, where victims are most commonly women, according to the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice. In 2014, 130 women were victims of acid attacks in India, according to the Acid Survivors Foundation India.

Gender-based violence is pervasive in Ethiopia, according to UNICEF; however, acid attacks are rare.

The last incident to make international headlines occurred in 2007 when a 21-year-old student had acid thrown at her by a man who had stalked her over the course of four years, according to Reuters. She had attempted to report her stalker to the police, but was told she needed witnesses.

The incident drew attention to the failure of Ethiopia’s legislation to adequately protect girls and women. Global Citizen campaigns #LeveltheLaw, to reform such laws and repeal laws that discriminate against women. You can take action here

Nigussiem awaits a series of surgeries that will hopefully be able to save her skin and reduce her pain.

"Thankfully now she is the best place with one of the world's best doctors looking after her,” the hospital’s regional manager Masha Zhigunova said. “We're all supporting her."