More than 2,000 children die every day from unintentional injury; at least half could be saved

December 10, 2008

More than 2000 children die every day as a result of an unintentional, or accidental injury, and every year tens of millions more worldwide are taken to hospitals with injuries that often leave them with lifelong disabilities, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

The World Report on Child Injury Prevention provides the first comprehensive global assessment of childhood unintentional injuries and prescribes measures to prevent them. It concludes that if proven prevention measures were adopted everywhere at least 1000 children's lives could be saved every day.

"Child injuries are an important public health and development issue. In addition to the 830 000 deaths every year, millions of children suffer non-fatal injuries that often require long-term hospitalization and rehabilitation," said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. "The costs of such treatment can throw an entire family into poverty. Children in poorer families and communities are at increased risk of injury because they are less likely to benefit from prevention programmes and high quality health services."

"This report is the result of a collaboration of more than 180 experts from all regions of the world," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "It shows that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of childhood death after the age of nine years and that 95% of these child injuries occur in developing countries. More must be done to prevent such harm to children."

Africa has the highest rate overall for unintentional injury deaths. The report finds the rate is 10 times higher in Africa than in high-income countries in Europe and the Western Pacific such as Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom, which have the lowest rates of child injury.

However, the report finds that although many high-income countries have been able to reduce their child injury deaths by up to 50% over the past 30 years, the issue remains a problem for them, with unintentional injuries accounting for 40% of all child deaths in such countries.

The report finds that the top five causes of injury deaths are:

1. Road crashes: They kill 260 000 children a year and injure about 10 million. They are the leading cause of death among 10-19 year olds and a leading cause of child disability.
2. Drowning: It kills more than 175 000 children a year. Every year, up to 3 million children survive a drowning incident. Due to brain damage in some survivors, non-fatal drowning has the highest average lifetime health and economic impact of any injury type.
3. Burns: Fire-related burns kill nearly 96 000 children a year and the death rate is eleven times higher in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
4. Falls: Nearly 47 000 children fall to their deaths every year, but hundreds of thousands more sustain less serious injuries from a fall.
5. Poisoning: More than 45 000 children die each year from unintended poisoning.

"Improvements can be made in all countries," said Dr Etienne Krug, Director of WHO's Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability. "When a child is left disfigured by a burn, paralysed by a fall, brain damaged by a near drowning or emotionally traumatized by any such serious incident, the effects can reverberate through the child's life. Each such tragedy is unnecessary. We have enough evidence about what works. A known set of prevention programmes should be implemented in all countries."

The report outlines the impact that proven prevention measures can have. These measures include laws on child-appropriate seatbelts and helmets; hot tap water temperature regulations; child-resistant closures on medicine bottles, lighters and household product containers; separate traffic lanes for motorcycles or bicycles; draining unnecessary water from baths and buckets; redesigning nursery furniture, toys and playground equipment; and strengthening emergency medical care and rehabilitation services.

It also identifies approaches that either should be avoided or are not backed by sufficient evidence to recommend them. For example, it concludes that blister packaging for tablets may not be child resistant; that airbags in the front seat of a car could be harmful to children under 13 years; that butter, sugar, oil and other traditional remedies should not be used on burns and that public education campaigns on their own don't reduce rates of drowning.

Source: World Health Organization

Explore further: Injuries from window blinds send two children to the emergency department every day

Related Stories

Injuries from window blinds send two children to the emergency department every day

December 11, 2017
Most homes have them. They help keep our rooms warm or cold and even add a pop of color to tie the décor together. But window blinds can cause serious injuries or even death to young children. A new study from the Center ...

Children have strokes, too—new guidelines will help diagnosis

December 7, 2017
The country's first guidelines to improve doctors' ability to diagnose and manage stroke in children have been released today. Stroke is among the top ten causes of death in childhood and more than half of childhood stroke ...

Preventing childhood accidents at home

December 8, 2017
(HealthDay)—As a parent, you may worry most about your kids when they aren't with you. But many of the falls that send a million children to the ER each year happen at home.

Molecules in spit may be able to diagnose and predict length of concussions

November 20, 2017
Diagnosing a concussion can sometimes be a guessing game, but clues taken from small molecules in saliva may be able to help diagnose and predict the duration of concussions in children, according to Penn State College of ...

Bullied teens more likely to take weapons to school

November 27, 2017
(HealthDay)—Bullied teens are twice as likely to take weapons such as guns or knives to school, a new study reveals.

Riding a slide while on a parent's lap increases the risk of injury

September 15, 2017
Going down a slide on a parent's lap can lead to a broken leg for small children. An estimated 352,698 children less than 6 years of age were injured on slides in the United States from 2002 through 2015, and many of those ...

Recommended for you

Women's sexual orientation linked to (un)happiness about birth

December 11, 2017
Unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been associated with negative health outcomes for mothers and babies. Yet, unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been understudied, particularly among sexual minority (non-heterosexual) ...

Social media trends can predict tipping points in vaccine scares

December 11, 2017
Analyzing trends on Twitter and Google can help predict vaccine scares that can lead to disease outbreaks, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

Health warnings on cigarettes could deter young people

December 11, 2017
Young people are less likely to try cigarettes with the printed health warning 'Smoking kills' on each stick than standard cigarettes, according to a new study by Cancer Research UK published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Multiple health implications of women's early marriage go beyond early childbearing

December 11, 2017
A new study of four South Asian countries reveals complex associations between early marriage and women's education, health and nutrition that go beyond the impacts of early childbearing. These health implications—which ...

Over 50s with fewer than 20 teeth at higher risk of musculoskeletal frailty

December 11, 2017
New research by scientists at King's College London has found that tooth loss may contribute to musculoskeletal frailty in the over 50s, with those with fewer than 20 teeth being at greatest risk.

Poor sleep could lead to heavier drinking in young adults, study finds

December 8, 2017
A shortened night of sleep may increase young adults' risk of heavier drinking, according to a new Yale study that assessed reciprocal variations in sleep and drinking over time in young adults.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.