UN-backed conference on injury prevention to be held in Africa for first time
With rates of violence and injury in Africa among the world's highest, ranging from war deaths to road accidents to poisoning, the continent will host its first ever major international conference on the issue next week when more than1,000 experts from nearly 130 countries gather under United Nations auspices in Durban, South Africa.
Globally, violence and injuries killed more than 5 million people in 2002, some 875,000 of them under the age of 18, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), and the four-day 8th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion will share the latest scientific knowledge on preventive measures.
“There must be a fundamental change in perception about the preventable nature of violence and injuries,” WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said ahead of Sunday's opening. “Violence and injuries do not result from random events. The acts which provoke them have identifiable causes and in most cases could be prevented.”
For violence-related injuries, proven and promising prevention strategies include home visitation by professional nurses and social workers; parent training on child development, non-violent discipline and parenting skills; life skills training; reducing alcohol availability by taxation, pricing and enforcement of licensing laws; restricting access to firearms; and multi-media campaigns to promote non-violent social norms.
Strategies to prevent so-called ‘accidental’ injuries include use of motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints; separating pedestrians from vehicles; controls on speeding and on drink driving; use of safer stoves for cooking; child resistant containers for poison; and barriers separating children from hazards such as bodies of water.
For all types of injuries, measures to improve the efficiency of emergency care will assist in reducing the risk of death, the time for recovery and the level of long-term impairment, WHO said.
In the WHO African region, based on the most recent estimates from 2002, six of the top 15 causes of death for people aged 15 to 44 result from injuries: homicides, road traffic injuries, war-related injuries, drowning, suicides and poisonings. Studies show that for South Africans, homicide and road traffic injuries are, respectively, the third and seventh leading causes of death.
Across Africa, poverty as well as income and gender inequality, coupled with a lack of prevention measures at home, work and on the street are key factors that contribute to these high rates. Globally, more than 90 per cent of deaths from violence and injuries occurred in low-income and middle-income countries, as did the vast majority of cases requiring medical attention.