Children riding unprotected on a bicycle in Lao PDR
Injury is one of the leading causes of death and disability among children in our region. Every year, some 1.4 million of them die before their fifth birthday, and nearly half of those deaths are due to injury. Yet, little has been done to reverse this epidemic.
- Child injury is a life-cycle issue. As children grow and develop, they are exposed to different risks according to their age. Once children are beyond infancy, injury becomes a dominant factor in their survival and healthy development. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children younger than 5. Road traffic injuries become a significant cause of death among older children, as do animal bites, falls, poisoning and electrocutions.
- Fatalistic attitudes towards accidents suggest that these events are unpredictable and thus cannot be prevented. These attitudes and beliefs in many parts of our region fuel a disregard for safety and make childhood injuries a difficult issue to address.
- Unsafe environments. More than 98 per cent of childhood injuries take place in the developing world. Flimsy construction, unfenced ponds, unprotected stairways, poorly stored chemicals and poisons, stray animals and unruly traffic are just some of the dozens of hazards confronting children.
- Permanent disability. Research indicates that for every child who dies in an accident, 20 more survive but with a disability.
- Orphans. More young children in our region lose a parent by death due to injury than any other cause, even in countries with serious AIDS epidemics, such as Thailand.
To reduce under-5 child mortality, UNICEF has adopted the following strategies to help stop childhood injuries:
- Changing attitudes, knowledge and behaviour: Safety education that aims to teach children and their care givers to identify risk factors of injury, practise protective behaviour and skills.
- Changing the environment: Fences around ponds near homes and high places, speed bumps, smoke detectors and other simple modifications make environments safer for children.
- Introducing and enforcing national policies and legislation: This includes safety standards for schools, toys and household products, mandatory use of child car seats and child-proof caps for poisons and medicine.