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Parents play the most important role in protecting children from injuries. Lack of knowledge and neglect increases the likelihood of childhood injuries. It is identified that raising awareness and taking precautionary measures are vital things which can help to reduce the number of cases related to both intentional and unintentional childhood injury.

Childhood injury is a major public health problem that needs urgent attention. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) study on ‘Global Burden of Disease,’ injury and violence have been identified as leading causes of death among children. Statistics show that around the world about 950,000 children who are under the age of 18 have died due to this type of injury.

In Sri Lanka, the latest mortality Statics of the Registrar General’s Department for the year 2009 show that a total of 6,254 children have died of childhood injury. Accordingly, in Sri Lanka, for every 100,000 children nearly 12 die from injuries before the age of 16. For every injured child, who dies, many more live on with varying degrees and duration of trauma and disability. They are often denied of the right to be productive citizens and to live a life of dignity.

Sri Lanka Medical Association Expert Committee on Ergonomics Chairperson Dr. Kapila Jayaratne speaking to The Nation said that children are vulnerable to injuries due to their size, growth, development, inexperience and natural curiosity.

“Every year nearly 600 children die and 270,000 are admitted to hospitals due to injuries. Childhood injury is the 4th leading cause of death among children between one to five years of age,” said Jayaratne.

He further mentioned that according to the studies conducted by the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH) 56 percent of the injuries is caused  by injuries occurred at home and eight percent is due to road accidents.

The government spends approximately 1,107 million rupees per year as medical expenses of injuries related to children.

Vigilance
There can be several injuries which can fall into the category of childhood injury namely road accidents, accidents happening at home like falls, electrocution, burns and also incidents of poisoning and snake bites.

Injury can be physical, mental or it can be both. Abuse or exploitation can also be considered as an injury which is both physical and mental. Parents should be very vigilant over a child, especially if he or she who used to be so active and playful suddenly becomes silent. “If parents are concerned enough a lot of things can be prevented. The problem here is that a lot of parents are not watchful or careful enough to spot such tragic incidents happened or happening to their child,” said Colombo General Hospital’s Accident Services Department National Training Nursing Officer Pushpa Ramyani Soysa. She blamed the parents for not paying much attention even if they see bruises and other injuries on a child’s body.

Responsibility
Parents play the most important role in protecting children from injuries. Lack of knowledge and neglect increases the likelihood of childhood injuries. It is identified that raising awareness and taking precautionary measures are vital things which can help to reduce the number of cases related to both intentional and unintentional childhood injury.
Parents are responsible for the safety of their children especially if they are toddlers, infants or preschoolers because children in these age categories are prone to such risks compared to that of children in other age groups.

Nursing Officer Pushpa Ramyani Soysa, expressing her opinion on the issue said that a majority of the child injuries occur at home, “It is the parents’ responsibility to make the home a safe environment and that it is free from potential child injuries including falls, electrocution and unprotected wells. There had been instances where kids have drowned in commodes and basins and it is solely because of the negligence of parents” she added.
She further pointed out that parents should teach their kids to obey rules. She added that if the mother is not obeying rules the child will also not obey them, especially road rules.

“Majority of the accidents is road accidents and out of which the highest cases are reported by carelessness when using the zebra crossing. Teach the kids the dangerousness of such careless acts,” she mentioned.

She also recalled an incident where a child died of burn wounds due to the negligence of the mother. “The mother had prepared to bathe the child and had kept the child with the basin which had boiling hot water in the bathroom and the child had poured it on his body. We could not save the child because the burn injuries were too severe,” said Soysa.

Prevention
When it comes to accidents, prevention methods include wearing of a helmet while on a motor cycle, wearing of seat belts both in the front and the back seat of the vehicle or using a baby or child car seat. In the number of instances where a helmet wasn’t worn and the seatbelt not fastened, either lives were lost or there were injuries to the spinal cord of those injured.

Also when considering un-protected wells, where many cases regarding childhood injuries were recorded, covering such unprotected wells will help to create a safe environment for the child.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child mentions that children have the right to a safe environment which is free from injuries. The convention also mentions that it is the responsibility of the society to safeguard this right. It is often cited as a neglected area and it requires multi-stakeholder involvement and approach. Reasons like lack of knowledge, neglect and insensitivity of adults and parents have significantly contributed to the increase in child injuries.

UNICEF Sri Lanka which has been supporting Ministry of Health on child injury prevention programs since 2013. This help has come in the form of providing training, material and overseeing  curriculum development and launching childhood injury prevention education programs in 6 districts. These efforts also include the establishment of district injury prevention multi-stakeholder steering committees.  In addition to that they have also helped to mobilize 50,000 community members in the six districts.

Both National and district level    cooperation is needed to strengthen the efforts taken to prevent child injury. UNICEF continues to closely work with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Department of Police and NGOs on interventions that ensure injury prevention.

Assessment of the exact number of childhood injuries and related issues has been difficult due to factors such as the absence of a systematic child injury surveillance mechanism and the programmatic-oriented data not being of quality and the minimal utilization of available childhood injury data connected with preventive programs.

However it should be noted that making the environment safe for children does not mean they should be deprived of new experiences in life. Children should be exposed new experiences in a safe environment. As the famous quote says, Prevention is better than cure.