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‘Safe Beijing’ project prevents child injury, disability and death in China

© UNICEF China/2006/Pang Xinglei
At a kindergarten in Beijing, traffic police played by children gives a speeding driver a ticket.

By Huan Linnan

BEIJING, China, 23 June 2006 – The life of Zhao Xingyu, 13, was forever changed by a roadside accident.

One Sunday, Xinyu went to school for extracurricular activities. “The road seemed very quiet, so I started to cross,” she recalls. “Then a motorcycle came from nowhere and hit me.”

A local doctor informed her that she had been lucky, suffering only a broken nose and scraped forehead. Some time later, however, Xingyu noticed that something might be terribly wrong with her vision.

“We went to a bigger hospital,” she continues. “The doctor told me that one of my eyes had become blind. I cried, and so did my mother.”

© UNICEF video
According to a recent UNICEF survey, serious injuries have become a leading cause of disability and death among China’s children.

10 million injured per year

According to a recent UNICEF survey, serious injuries have become a leading cause of disability and death among China’s children.

“Every year, more than 100,000 children die because of injury-related causes in China. This represents almost 1 per cent of the global mortality for children,” says UNICEF Project Officer Koen Vanormelingen. “The major causes of injury deaths are drowning, traffic accidents and falls.”

But deaths by injury are only the tip of the iceberg. Research has shown that for every injury-related death, four children are permanently disabled. Out of the 10 million Chinese children who are injured every year, nearly 8 million need medical attention, a financial burden for many families.

‘Safe Beijing’ initiative

Since 2004, the Beijing Working Committee for Women and Children, in collaboration with UNICEF, has started a pilot project called ‘Safe Beijing’. Carried out in two districts – one urban and one rural – the project is focused on establishing models of  ‘Safe Home’, ‘Safe School’ and ‘Safe Community’. 

© UNICEF video
At a kindergarten in Beijing, a girl learns how the police direct traffic.

“The main strategy to reduce injury is to promote safe behaviour for children, make the environment safe for children and improve rules, regulations and policies to better protect children,” explains Mr. Vanormelingen.

The project puts children at the centre of its activities. With their participation, environmental risk factors are identified and community safety plans are developed. The children also help spread safety knowledge and skills they have learned within their own families and communities.

Easy solutions at home

In many neighbourhoods of Hidian District, where the project has been implemented, parents meet regularly to share experiences and discuss new ways of safeguarding their children. Among them is Zhou Xiaoli, mother of two-year-old Qi Qi. Like most Chinese families, hers has only one child.

“He is the centre of the entire family,” says Ms. Zhou. “He bumped his head once before. That sent everyone into absolute craziness. It felt like the sky had fallen on us. His grandma couldn’t stop crying and neither could I.”


© UNICEF video
Students at a primary school in Beijing learn how to use a fire extinguisher.

Since participating in the Safe Beijing project, she has learned several easy solutions to make her home much safer for her son.

“We only buy furniture with round corners, so that he can’t bump his head any more. Knives and hot water bottles are put in high places, so that he can’t reach them. When we are not using the electrical outlets, we cover them with tape,” she says.

Road safety lessons start early

Throughout primary schools in Beijing, students also practice safety during fire drills. They learn how to use equipment such as fire extinguishers and perform plays illustrating what to do in a variety of dangerous scenarios.

To teach children about road safety, kindergarten teachers transform playgrounds into busy streets. Children themselves play drivers, pedestrians and street vendors. Police officers, also played by children, conduct the flow of the traffic and learn that fines or other penalties can be effective in teaching a speeding driver a lesson.

Following the example of Safe Beijing, Southern China’s Jiangxi Province, which has a population of 43 million, plans to implement a large-scale child injury prevention programme as well.

Kun Li contributed to this story from New York.




23 June 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on child injury prevention programmes in China.
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23 June 2006: UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on the widespread problem of child injury in China and the government’s ‘Safe Beijing’ project.
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