Child and adolescent injuries
Road traffic injuries and drowning are leading causes of death worldwide.
Unintentional injuries, such as road traffic crashes, drowning, falls, burns and scalds and poisonings are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents worldwide. Globally, more than 1,600 children and adolescents below the age of 19-years die every day from preventable injuries. Of those injuries, road traffic crashes represent the leading cause of death.
The unequal burden of deaths from these injuries is great. Children living in low-income countries are far more likely to suffer from unintentional injuries than those living in high-income countries. National wealth, income inequality and access to education are all significant determining factors.
A child living in a low-income country is eight times more likely to experience an unintentional injury than a child living in a high-income country.
The children and families that experience these types of unintentional injuries are often faced with not only enormous emotional costs, but also significant financial costs.
These deaths are largely preventable and evidence-based solution exist. Yet, despite the alarming statistics, road safety and drowning prevention for children and adolescents is often overlooked in public health policies. Preventing these unintentional injuries is at the heart of UNICEF’s work and is central to supporting the achievement of the sustainable development goals.
Globally, road traffic injuries represent the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 5 and 19.
On average, more than 600 children and adolescents die every day on our roads. That’s about one death every two minutes.
Almost all road traffic injury deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa.
UNICEF advocates for the enforcement of effective interventions that can reduce child injuries. For instance, correct use of child passenger restraint systems in vehicles is proven to result in more than a 70 per cent reduction in motor vehicle crash related injuries. Furthermore, the correct use of bicycle and motorcycle helmets can reduce serious head injuries by more than 60 per cent.
Drowning is another top killer, ranking among the ten leading causes of death for children and adolescents in every region of the world.
More than 260 children and adolescents lose their lives to drowning every day. That’s more than 10 deaths every hour.
More than 90 per cent of these drowning deaths happen in lower- and middle-income countries. Children under 5-years-old are disproportionately at risk, with boys being twice as likely to drown as girls.
UNICEF believes that every child should survive and thrive in a healthy and safe environment. Reducing drowning deaths are critical to achieving this aim. The following steps are proven to help prevent these fatalities:
- Installing barriers controlling access to water
- Providing safe places away from water such as creches for pre-school children with capable childcare
- Teaching swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills
Providing personal flotation devices for boating
How UNICEF is responding
Preventing unintentional injuries such as road traffic fatalities and drownings demands concerted efforts across sectors. That includes health, child protection, education, urban planning and environment.
UNICEF’s efforts to prevent unintentional injuries combine the following strategies:
- Engineering – adapting and adopting environmental and product modification, in addition to the use of safety devices
- Education – implementing community-based interventions and educational programmes
- Enforcement – ensuring the adoption and implementation of effective laws and regulations
UNICEF works with governments and partners worldwide to support, develop and monitor integrated child injury–prevention programmes. UNICEF also advocates for evidence-based policy development, implementation and enforcement. Our efforts improve data collection and analysis, and strengthen the capacity of governments and communities to adopt, implement and monitor programming and policies to support the prevention and reduction of injuries.
UNICEF’s aim is that every child survives and thrives in a healthy and safe environment. The reduction of child injuries and deaths is paramount to achieving this goal.
Resources and publications
|Child Health Initiative & UNICEF|
|UNICEF||Shaping urbanization for children handbook|