Injuries resulting from drowning, suffocation and road accidents are among the leading killers of Asian children, according to groundbreaking research by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is appealing for scaled-up injury prevention initiatives.
The survey, conducted jointly with the Alliance for Safe Children (TASC) over the past seven years, highlights that the risk of death from injuries rises after infancy as children become more independent and as the danger from infectious and non-communicable diseases drops.
“If we are ultimately going to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce child mortality, it is imperative that we take action to address the causes of childhood injury,” said Anupama Rao Singh, Regional Director of UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, urging bolstered investment in public awareness campaigns and arming children and their parents with knowledge and skills.
Working in partnership with local public health teams, in-person interviews for the study were done in over half a million households, comprising more than 2 million people in five countries: Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.
The causes of death and disability among a representative sample of all children up to 18 years of age were reliably recorded for the first time ever in these nations.
Research uncovered that the causes of injuries differ by age group. Infants under 12 months are not as exposed to injury, while toddlers between one and four years of age are at the greatest risk of drowning. Schoolchildren aged five to nine years, who spend much time outside their homes, are at the greatest danger from drowning and road traffic incidents.
Meanwhile, the survey alarmingly concluded that the leading cause of death among adolescents is intentional injury, or homicide and suicide. Researchers pointed out that due to the difficulty and sensitivity of the subject, the problem is underreported.
The fact that many injuries – especially fatal ones – are rarely reported to hospitals also poses a challenge in accurately monitoring child mortality.
Both UNICEF and TASC are appealing for improved systems to record births and deaths, and beefed-up injury prevention programmes incorporating road safety, swimming lessons and education to prevent suffocation, falls, poisoning and insect bites.
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