MALAYA: Drowning, road accidents leading causes of children’s deaths in 5 countries

March 14, 2008

THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in a study unveiled Tuesday in Bangkok, said that drowning and road accidents have become the leading cause of death and disability among children older than one year of age in Bangladesh, China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

UNICEF expressed worry over the finding that “intentional injury” or homicide and suicide were the leading cause of death among adolescents, adding that the gathered information may be underestimated due to the sensitive nature of the incidents.

The study marks the first time that causes of death and disability among a representative sample of all children up to 18 years were reliably recorded, citing face-to-face interviews done with more than half a million households covering more than 2 million people in the five countries.

Done over the last seven years, the study was spearheaded by UNICEF and The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC), and in partnership with local public health teams.

“Nearly half of all child deaths included in the studies happened after the age of five. The most easily preventable causes were suffocation and drowning which mostly occurred in children under five years of age,” said the UNICEF.

Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific regional director, said nations must address causes of childhood mortality in order to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality.

The official said that “a judicious mix” of public health interventions like awareness campaigns to equipping children and their parents with knowledge and skills can prevent the majority of these deaths.”

To help curb child mortality, the UNICEF and TASC are calling for better systems to record births and deaths, and the expansion of child injury prevention programs.

They also urge nations to undertake campaigns for better road safety to lessen accidents, increased supervision and swimming lessons for children to prevent drowning and household safety education to prevent suffocation, falls, poisoning and animal bites.

UNICEF said survey results found injury as “an acute menace to children’s lives” and that the findings “indicate that the causes of injury differ by age group and are associated with exposure to different types of risks,” including choking, suffocation and falls for infants less than a year old; drowning for 1-4 year-olds; drowning and road accidents for 5-9 year-olds; and risk-taking behavior and exposure to violence for 10-17-year-olds