More must be done to halt 'staggering' rate of child injuries - UCT academic

The taxi that ploughed into four schoolgirls in Newlands East, Durban, in March. Road accidents are among the primary causes of childhood injuries in SA.
The taxi that ploughed into four schoolgirls in Newlands East, Durban, in March. Road accidents are among the primary causes of childhood injuries in SA.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

Injuries - ranging from road crashes to drownings - are the leading cause of death for South African children under the age of 18.

This is according to University of Cape Town (UCT) professor Sebastian van As, who is determined to do something about it. “When it comes to children, the prevention of injury is an ethical imperative," he said.

As the country recognises Child Protection Week from June 2 to 9, new efforts have been made to raise awareness about the prevention of childhood injuries.

Van As, also head of the trauma unit at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, said the hospital treats 10,000 children for injuries every year. “That’s around 200 injured children each week. In a country like South Africa, which is now home to 20-million children, that's a staggering number of injuries,” he said.

According to Van As, the hospital can only do so much; more attention must be paid to prevention.

One common cause of child injuries in South Africa is taxi accidents, which claimed the lives of three Durban schoolgirls in March and caused injuries to dozens more children in KwaZulu-Natal the next month.

“Taxi drivers have a terrible reputation in South Africa,” said Van As.

“In 2013, we set about trying to establish a safer travel culture for school children.”

Van As, with his NGO ChildSafe, began a project to train taxi drivers while installing tracking devices in their cars to monitor data such as speed and sudden breaking. If their driving is deemed to be safe, drivers can even earn rewards like petrol money or a new car.

“Many of the almost 1,000 drivers who have been involved in the programme have reported back to us saying that they are proud to be keeping the children in the community safe,” he said.

X