UN report: injuries major cause of child death
Accidental injury is a leading cause of death among children in underdeveloped countries, killing some 2,000 children every day, according to a UN report released Wednesday.
But the report says efforts to reduce injuries among children are underfunded and have been too often ignored, reported dpa.
The report, released by the World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) at a press conference in Hanoi, uses Vietnam as an example of how efforts to prevent injuries in children can be unexpectedly complex.
Drowning, for example, is the leading cause of accidental death among children under 18. In Vietnam, government statistics show an average of 10 children under 15 drown every day. Most people in Vietnam never learn to swim, and children regularly perish during flood season, or when boats overturn.
But Australian studies show national programs to train young children to swim can actually increase morbidity rates, as parents become less wary of allowing children near water. The report recommends flotation devices or avoiding water for children under 5.
Traffic accidents are the second leading cause of death in children 5 and over. But a 2007 Vietnamese law that made it mandatory to wear helmets on motorbikes, which achieved 90 per cent compliance among adults, was altered to exempt children due to popular complaints.
The report says Vietnamese parents and some doctors spread false rumors that wearing helmets could injure children's necks. In fact, wearing a helmet reduces the risk and severity of injuries by 72 per cent.
The report also cites burns, falls, and poisoning as major risk factors for children. It recommends countries adopt national programs to alter roads, playgrounds and infrastructure, and develop new rules and educational programs to prevent child injuries.
Injury and violence were responsible for 900,000 children's deaths each year, 90 per cent of which were accidental, the report said.
The leading cause of death resulting from an injury was road traffic accidents, followed by drowning and fires or burns.
War made up only 2.3 per cent of child-injury deaths.
The first UN report on the subject said millions of children suffered lifelong disabilities due to injuries, and that the poor were at an increased risk.
Africa had the highest death toll from unintentional injuries, at a rate 10 times higher than in Europe.
"Improvements can be made in all countries," said Etienne Krug from the WHO's injury prevention unit, adding that many tragedies were preventable.