More than 2,000 children killed daily in avoidable accidents, says UN

10 December 2008

Over 2,000 children are killed daily from injuries sustained in preventable accidents and every year tens of millions more suffer injuries that often leave them with lifelong disabilities, according to a new United Nations report.

At least 1,000 children’s lives could be saved every day if proven prevention measures – including laws on child-appropriate seatbelts and helmets and hot tap water temperature regulations – are adopted everywhere, concluded a joint UN World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report released yesterday.

“In addition to the 830,000 deaths every year, millions of children suffer non-fatal injuries that often require long-term hospitalization and rehabilitation,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

She warned that treatment costs could drive families into poverty. “Children in poorer families and communities are at increased risk of injury because they are less likely to benefit from prevention programmes and high quality health services.”

The report, a collaborative effort involving more than 180 experts worldwide, found that Africa has the highest overall rate deaths resulting from unintentional injury, with its children being 10 times more likely to die from accidents than children from high-income countries.

“It shows that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of childhood death after the age of nine years and that 95 per cent of these child injuries occur in developing countries,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.

Although wealthier countries have been able to reduce their child injury deaths by up to 50 per cent over the past 30 years, the issue still remains a problem as unintentional injuries make up 40 per cent of all child deaths in these nations, the report, entitled “The World Report on Child Injury Prevention,” found.

The leading cause of unintentional injury deaths and child disabilities are road accidents, killing some 260,000 children a year and injuring around 10 million. Drowning account for 175,000 deaths a year, while fire-related burns kill claim the lives of 96,000 children, falls cause 47,000 deaths and poisoning leads to more than 45000 children dying each year.

“When a child is left disfigured by a burn, paralyzed by a fall, brain damaged by a near-drowning or emotionally traumatized by any such serious incident, the effects can reverberate through the child’s life,” said Etienne Krug, Director of WHO’s Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability.

“Each such tragedy is unnecessary. We have enough evidence about what works. A known set of prevention programmes should be implemented in all countries,” added Dr. Krug.

The report outlines a number of proven life-saving measures, such as child-resistant closures on medicine bottles, lighters and household product containers; separate traffic lanes for motorcycles or bicycles; draining unnecessary water from baths and buckets; redesigning nursery furniture, toys and playground equipment; and strengthening emergency medical care and rehabilitation services.

 

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