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UNICEF Finds Epidemic of Child Injuries in Bangladesh


A new study by the U.N. Children's Fund says that injury is a leading killer of children in Bangladesh and other countries in Asia. UNICEF says injury has replaced disease as the major cause of death among children in the region.

The UNICEF survey shows injuries account for 38 percent of all deaths among children aged one to 17. It says the greatest killer, especially among very young children, is drowning; whereas, road accidents and suicide account for more deaths among adolescents.

Taken together, the report finds more than 30,000 children in Bangladesh died in 2002 from drowning, transport accidents, falls, burns, animal bites and other injuries. That comes to 83 child deaths a day or three per hour.

UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh, Morten Giersing, says this is a tragedy, which comes out of a success.

"It is a success because when we now see that injury is becoming a very big killer in a country like Bangladesh which is still enormously poor, it is on the backdrop of great success in preventing diarrhea deaths, in preventing what vaccines can do, what antibiotics can do. So, you have had those kinds of deaths coming down," he said.

This is the largest injury survey ever conducted at the community level in a developing country. In 2003, more than 170,000 households representing over 800,000 people were surveyed.

Similar, but smaller-scale injury surveys have been conducted in Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and China. UNICEF says these surveys also show that injury is a leading killer of children over one year of age in Asia.

The president of the Alliance for Safe Children, Douglas Peterson, calls death by injury just the tip of the iceberg.

"For every single death, you have four permanently disabled,” he added. “You have 22 that are in the hospital or have to undergo major surgery. You have 35 that have hospital from one to nine days. And, you have 254 that sought care or missed school as a result of injury.”

UNICEF says governments must spend much more money on preventing injuries. It notes that fewer children are dying from killer diseases than before because governments have spent the money needed to produce this result. It says deaths from injuries also could be cut dramatically if similar investments were made in prevention and safety awareness programs.

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