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Child injury occurs every two minutes

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2005
Thirteen-year-old Rahman suffered serious burns from an explosion, after a local store mistakenly sold petrol as kerosene. His father was killed, and his mother and sister were badly hurt.

By Zafrin Chowdhury and Kun Li

DHAKA, Bangladesh, 4 August 2005 – It seemed just like any other day. Thirteen-year-old Rahman was at home when his father returned with a bottle of kerosene he had purchased from a local grocery store. As dusk approached, Rahman poured some kerosene into a lamp and lit the wick. No one could have imagined the result – a deadly explosion.

The ‘kerosene’ Rahman lit was not kerosene at all, but petrol – mistakenly called kerosene by the store. The explosion inflicted severe burns on Rahman’s ears, neck, chest and abdomen. Rahman’s father was killed. His mother and sister Rehana, 7, were badly hurt.

Two months after the accident, Rahman lies wrapped in white bandages in a large ward at the newly constructed Burn Unit of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). He has endured several rounds of surgery and skin grafts to treat the burns. He is still unaware of his father’s death.

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2005
The Bangladesh Health and Injury Survey shows that three children die every hour from injuries.

“Lying here in the hospital is painful. I want to go home and get back to school again,” says Rahman, to UNICEF staff upon their visit.

A tragedy laid bare by success

The newly published Bangladesh Health and Injury Survey (BHIS) shows that three children die every hour from injuries. Two children suffer serious but non-fatal injuries every minute, leading to over 13,000 permanent disabilities a year. In 2002, nearly one million Bangladeshi children were injured.

Rahman is just one of 200,000 children in the country who fall victim to severe burns every year. Many are left disabled or disfigured. The Injury Survey shows that burns are the fifth largest cause of child death in Bangladesh.

“This is a tragedy laid bare by success,” said UNICEF Communication Officer in Bangladesh Kirsty McIvor. “As we conquer the mountain of preventable diseases, we can see the mountain of injury behind it – a mountain that has always been there, but shielded from sight.”

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2005
An estimated 2,600 children are injured each day in Bangladesh.

“Injury is now an epidemic in Bangladesh. It accounts for an estimated 38 per cent of all deaths over the age of one,” said Ms. McIvor.

Preventing injury is integral to child survival

For Rahman and his family, losing their father means losing their only source of income. Because he is the eldest child and a boy, Rahman will need to find work once he is released from hospital, in order to support his family.

Working with the government of Bangladesh and partners like the Alliance for Safe children, UNICEF has made preventing child injury and promoting child safety a top priority.

“It is a great concern that children are not only dying due to injury, but they are also disabled and orphaned,” said Dr. Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in Bangladesh. “These are the long-term burdens that society and the nation must face.”

“It is time to begin developing injury prevention as an integral part of health and development programmes,” said UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh Morten Giersing. “Preventing injury is an integral part of child survival. Child health programmes can’t be considered complete without injury prevention at the core.”



Related links

Bangladesh Health and Injury Survey, on the UNICEF Bangladesh website (pdf)

Bangladesh: Background

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