Preventable injuries kill 2000 children every day

kinsley's picture

10 December 2008 | Geneva/Hanoi/New York --

Hello All,
This is to draw your attention on the launch yesterday [Dec 10, 2008] by
the World Health Organization of the World Report on Child Injury

More than 2000 children die every day as a result of unintentional or accidental injuries. Every year tens of millions more worldwide are taken to hospitals with injuries that often leave them with lifelong disabilities, according to
a new report by WHO and UNICEF.

The World report on child injury prevention provides the first
comprehensive global assessment of unintentional childhood injuries and
prescribes measures to prevent them. It concludes that if proven
prevention measures were adopted everywhere at least 1000 children's
lives could be saved every day.

"Child injuries are an important public health and development issue. 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 Dr Margaret Chan. "The costs
of such treatment can throw an entire family 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."

"This report is the result of a collaboration of more than 180 experts
from all regions of the world," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M.
Veneman. "It shows that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of
childhood death after the age of nine years and that 95% of these child
injuries occur in developing countries. More must be done to prevent
such harm to children."

Africa has the highest rate overall for unintentional injury deaths. The
report finds the rate is 10 times higher in Africa than in high-income
countries in Europe and the Western Pacific such as Australia, the
Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom, which have the
lowest rates of child injury.

However, the report finds that although many high-income countries have
been able to reduce their child injury deaths by up to 50% over the past
30 years, the issue remains a problem for them, with unintentional
injuries accounting for 40% of all child deaths in such countries.
The report finds that the top five causes of injury deaths are:
* Road crashes: They kill 260 000 children a year and injure about
10 million. They are the leading cause of death among 10-19 year olds
and a leading cause of child disability.
* Drowning: It kills more than 175 000 children a year. Every
year, up to 3 million children survive a drowning incident. Due to brain
damage in some survivors, non-fatal drowning has the highest average
lifetime health and economic impact of any injury type.
* Burns: Fire-related burns kill nearly 96 000 children a year and
the death rate is 11 times higher in low- and middle-income countries
than in high-income countries.
* Falls: Nearly 47 000 children fall to their deaths every year,
but hundreds of thousands more sustain less serious injuries from a
* Poisoning: More than 45 000 children die each year from
unintended poisoning.

"Improvements can be made in all countries," said Dr Etienne Krug,
Director of WHO's Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and
Disability. "When a child is left disfigured by a burn, paralysed 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. Each such tragedy is unnecessary. We have enough evidence about
what works. A known set of prevention programmes should be implemented
in all countries."

The report outlines the impact that proven prevention measures can have.
These measures include:
* laws on child-appropriate seatbelts and helmets;
* hot tap water temperature regulations;
* child-resistant closures on medicine bottles, lighters and
household product containers; separate traffic lanes for motorcycles or
* draining unnecessary water from baths and buckets;
* redesigning nursery furniture, toys and playground equipment;
* strengthening emergency medical care and rehabilitation
It also identifies approaches that either should be avoided or are not
backed by sufficient evidence to recommend them. For example, it
* that blister packaging for tablets may not be child resistant;
* that airbags in the front seat of a car could be harmful to
children under 13 years;
* that butter, sugar, oil and other traditional remedies should
not be used on burns;
* that public education campaigns on their own don't reduce rates
of drowning.

The full report is freely accessible on the WHO web site at
Hard copies can be purchased, with a discounted price for developing
countries, through our online bookshop at where
other ordering channels are also described.


rhamilton's picture

How about swimming lessons?

It is appropriate to focus attention on unintentional childhood injuries and their longstanding devastating global impact. I have no special expertise in this field but I find the preventive programs enumerated in the WHO/UNICEF report, as cited by Kinsley, somewhat surprising, given the overwhelming preponderance of cases in low income countries. I have worked in Bangladesh where road accidents, drownings and burns are huge problems, at least they were when I was last there 15 years ago. In that country, it seems to me that 1) properly designed seat belts and helmets are unlikely to impact significantly on road accident deaths and disability as long as the driving conditions for motorized vehicles are chaotic and drivers and these vehicles are unregulated; 2) drownings will continue at a high rate when water is everywhere if children cannot swim, and 3) until safe cheap equipment for cooking by fire in the household can be designed and used widely, burns will continue to be frequent..
Better designed nursery furniture which may be effective in Canada or Norway has limited relevance to most low-income countries where most of these problems prevail. Maybe progress in preventing injuries in Bangladesh has occurred since I was there 15 years ago. If so, let’s find out how that progress was made. Some innovative thinking is needed to develop practical strategies to prevent childhood injuries in low-income settings.

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