Child safety is a round-the-clock obligation

EVERY year in South Africa, more than 570 children are killed in pedestrian accidents because someone did not see them. Another 250 die because someone did not buckle them in. And others drown because an adult turned their back for a moment. Nearly 230 die as a result of burns because an adult was not watching them.

Overall, a staggering number of children – some 6500 -- die in South Africa because of injury sustained in accidents. However, the thousands of accidents that leave children scarred or disabled, are preventable. Right here in Port Elizabeth last week, a Korsten toddler died in a bucket of water, after trying to retrieve a toy that had fallen into it.

It was a tragic accident and the shattered parents said they did not blame anyone, although the water crisis experienced across the city last week had meant there was an uncovered bucket of water where normally there would not have been one.

South Africa is not alone: according to the World Health Organisation, accidental injury is responsible for almost 90% of the one million deaths of children under 18 years of age, that occur annually throughout the world. "It is a bit of a harsh statement, but most accidents that happen to children under the age of eight are basically the responsibility of adults,” says Professor Sebastian van As, president of Childsafe and head of the trauma unit at Cape Town’s Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

"You cannot blame the child, because he or she is too immature to understand the dangers. If you take a walk through the wards of Red Cross Children’s Hospital, you will find that more than half of all patients are here through accidents – caused mostly through carelessness and ignorance.”

In order to try and break the pattern, supermarket chain Woolworths, has joined forces with Childsafe and is taking advantage of Child Safety Month in August, to launch a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the need for parents and other adults to be more alert to danger and more conscientious about taking steps to prevent accidents.

The theme for the campaign is simple: "You’re bigger. Be the adult.” Younger children – particularly those under the age of six – are most at risk of accidental injuries. For example, a toddler who is not in a car seat has a five times greater chance of dying in a car accident than one who is properly restrained.

In South Africa, nearly 90% of children being transported are not restrained. It is also important to remember that common objects like coins, pins and buttons are hazardous for children under three, who will generally put anything into their mouths.