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Injury prevention initiatives raise awareness

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2008/Kathryn Seymour
Tuli and her father with the memorial tree that memorialises her older sister who drowned last year.
Barrister Para Village, Central Bangladesh, 12 August 2008: Injury is the leading killer of children over the age of one in Bangladesh, claiming over 30,000 children each year. UNICEF’s Injury Prevention Project has piloted many injury-prevention activities especially those that prevent drowning. Drowning alone accounts for around 18,000 injury deaths in children each year. The following stories profile three of these life-saving interventions in Barrister Para Village in central Bangladesh. The entire project will conclude in December 2008. Those interventions which have been most effective will be rolled out across the country with the help of the Government of Bangladesh.

Swimming lessons, a life-saving intervention

Five-year-old Akash lies on his stomach in the dirt. He reaches out his arms and paddles his legs in the dust.  He is showing the residents of Barrister Para how he pulled his brother Shaba (4) from the pond, rescuing him from drowning.

“I started yelling for help and pulling on him,” says Akash. “I learnt this during swimming lessons.”  Akash is taking swimming lessons as part of a UNICEF pilot programme, run in conjunction with the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh and international NGO The Alliance for Safe Children, to prevent injury deaths among children.

The village is very proud of Akash. The survival of his younger brother is proof that the hard work of the children and the swimming teacher is paying off.

Lunchtime at the safe crèche

Studies show that most child-injuries occur in the morning, when women are busy with household chores and unable to properly supervise their children.

Parents in Barrister Para no longer have to worry about these injuries, thanks to a village crèche that provides care for thirty children under the age of six, between 8 am and 1 pm, six days a week. The crèche is another pilot initiative of UNICEF’s injury prevention programme.

The children play different clapping games and a local version of pass-the-parcel, sing songs and take turns dancing.  “When the children are new, they are a little nervous, but they soon get involved,” says crèche mother, Kamrun Nahar.

Three-year-old Shikhon smiles and says, “We learn here, so it’s good to come.”

Four-year-old Rishma explains, “I like to come because we can all play together.” 

Rishma’s mother Anguri has brought a big pot of kejeree - a mixture of rice, lentils and vegetables - for all the children to share for lunch. Each day of the month, a different mother brings lunch for all of the children. This system was developed by the mothers themselves as it allows the children to remain an extra hour at the crèche and ensures that they get a healthy meal every day. 

“I am glad Rishma is here,’ says Anguri, ‘because I want my daughter to be safe. I want her to learn things. I work at the clinic so am not usually at home in the morning. Her siblings are much older and have left home so there is not one else to look after her.”

Memorials warn against the danger of injury-related child death

Above a rubber tree in the main street hangs a sign which reads “This is Lisa’s tree. We are shocked by Lisa’s death.”  Lisa was visiting her grandparents when she wandered away from the house and drowned during last year’s floods. She was six years old.
There are several trees like this, with small white plaques, planted around the village. Commissioned by an injury prevention committee made up of local people, the trees are part memorial and part cautionary sign.

Following the death of a child in Barrister Para, the whole community meets with the committee for a social autopsy, to discuss the death and identify any changes in behavior or environment that might prevent similar accidents. The trees are part of this process.
 
Lisa’s father believes that this strategy is working. He says, “We are more careful now. We watch Tuli [Lisa’s younger sister] whenever she goes near water and we have made sure that the fireplace is safe. Whenever people see the tree, they remember how important safety is.”

In her father’s arms, Tuli reaches out to grab the branches of Lisa’s tree, reminding her family exactly what they have lost.

 

 

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