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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 03:53 GMT
Accidents 'biggest threat to children'
Road traffic accidents
Traffic accidents are a major cause of child death
Injuries, caused by everything from abuse to bicycle accidents and fires, have become the leading cause of death among children in the industrialised world, replacing disease.

Safest nations
Sweden
UK
Italy
Netherlands
Norway
The United Nation's Children's Fund (Unicef) has published the first league table of child death by injury among the 26 countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

The data reveals that injuries kill more than 20,000 children every year in developed countries.

Deaths from preventable injuries - such as traffic accidents, drownings, fires, falls and physical attacks - account for almost 40% of deaths among children under 15 in these nations.

For every injured child who dies, many more live on with varying degrees of disability and trauma.

Bottom five nations
Korea
Mexico
Portugal
USA
New Zealand
The research shows that across the developed world the overall likelihood of a child dying from injury has been falling steadily in recent years.

But different nations have been progressing at very different rates, and at least 12,000 child deaths a year could be prevented if all OECD countries had the same child injury death rate as Sweden - the safest country for children.

The Unicef report finds that the risk of dying from an injury is increased if a child:

  • comes from a single parent family
  • has a mother who has been poorly educated
  • has a young mother
  • lives in poor housing
  • has a lot of brothers and sisters
  • has parents who abuse alcohol or drugs
The report also found that boys are 70% more likely to die from injuries than girls.

Older boys are particularly at risk. However, even a boy aged one to four is 40% more likely to die from an injury than a girl of the same age.

Unicef says that there is a lack of adequate data and research into exactly which children are most at risk.

It says that strategies to reduce child injury are often inadequately implemented.

Unicef estimates that one million children a year die from injuries in the developing world.

The rate of child deaths in traffic accidents is today more than five times higher in Africa than in the European Union, even though Africa is still at the beginning of the growth curve in vehicle ownership.

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See also:

04 Jan 01 | Health
Identifying the accident prone
01 Dec 00 | Health
Cities 'as dangerous as smoking'
20 Jul 00 | Health
Accident care 'costing lives'
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