Safer Cities: Children’s safety should come first  


January 29th, 2015

At this time, among all the nation states under the United Nations, probably the children of Asian countries are most vulnerable as many countries of this continent are at war or involved in violent political conflicts. Violence on humans in the name of freedom, seeking independence, religion or demanding democratic rights has been widely increasing from north  to south and east to west on this continent. This is not now limited only to some middle east but expanded to South Asian countries. Barak Obama did not bring his daughters with him on a recent visit to India visit partly due to security concerns! Those girls were deprived of a visit to a part of the world where most of the poor children live and missed seeing the beauty of the Taj Mahal, one of the famous ancient architectural sites in the world.

Woman and children are the most vulnerable in any war or conflict situation even if they are not directly related with any groups.  Last month on 16 December 132 children from Peshwar, Pakistan were killed by an unidentified gun attack at their school. Over the last couple of weeks around 38 people died in Bangladesh where a good number of children were fatally burned by petrol bomb attacks when they were in the public bus, rickshaws and scooters. The majority lived in Dhaka and other urban areas.

A world report on child injury published by the World Health Organization and UNICEF (WHO, 2008) shows that injury is a leading cause of child deaths and ill health in most countries.

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It shows that worldwide around 42 children per 100,000 from low and mid income countries died from unintentional injuries compared to 12.2 per 100,000 population in high income countries.  This report also cited from recent large scale community–based surveys in five countries in south and east Asia found that the numbers of child deaths  due to injury are much higher than previously thought for children of all ages.

A national child injury survey conducted in 2005 by the Directorate General Health Services, Bangladesh shows that injury is the leading cause of child mortality and morbidity. Each year 30,000 children die from injury half of them are below five years. This report identified drowning as the leading cause of child deaths in Bangladesh followed by road accidents, animals bites, suicide and fall. Injury is also a leading cause of permanent disability. In each year 13,100 children become permanently disabled due to injury – falls and burns are the top two among six major causes of injuries. Children of urban areas are most susceptible to falls, burns, and cuts from machines and blunt objects.

Dangers of urban areas

23015This report found that children in urban areas are at risk of drowning at nearby water reservoirs, safety tank sand big holes or sewers. A child can drown even in a bucket with inches of water. On 26th December last year a four year old called Jihad drowned when he was playing with his friends in an open well abandoned for long time. This was created by the  Water and Sewerage Authority of Dhaka city for assessing water levels. Fire service rescue teams along with a hundred local volunteers tried to rescue Jahid for whole night but failed.  Leading electronic media showed that rescue scenario live and the whole nation awaited to see that baby live or death! When statuary fire service rescue team failed to pull the baby from more than 250 meters deep well then local young volunteers pulled the baby from that well successfully.

Promoting community awareness

What we have learnt from that cost of the life of a child and the hours of ineffective rescue operation by statutory organizations? We have learnt that old proverb, “Prevention is better than cure”! If the community of that baby were aware about child injury and what and where are the risks in city areas then they would at least have covered that open well! Similarly statutory organizations also must take into account health and safety issues when they carry out public works. In developing countries like Bangladesh governments and people do not have the economic or institutional capability to bear the long term economic and social cost of injuries.

So all concerned citizens of developing countries, all the humanitarian and development organizations that if we want to keep continue our growth and development we must care about our children, as future citizens otherwise while we may have some success it will not sustain in the longer term!

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