Child injuries: the stories behind the statistics

Two children playing in a street.
WHO/C. Gaggero

December 2008

Every day around the world the lives of more than 2000 families are torn apart by the loss of a child to an unintentional injury – due to a road traffic crash, a drowning, burn, fall or poisoning – most of which could be prevented. The grief that the victims' parents, siblings, grandparents and friends suffer is immeasurable. Such tragedies change lives irrevocably.

The following are six stories of children who were injured or who died from a preventable cause. Drawn from the World report on child injury prevention, the stories remind us that behind the statistics are real faces, real families and real lives. They emphasize that if prevention measures such as those outlined in the world report were taken or emergency medical services had been accessible, an enormous amount of suffering could have been avoided.

  • Australia: Harrison
    In a brief moment when his mother was occupied, 18-month-old Harrison opened a dishwasher detergent container and swallowed some of the powder. He survived but the lasting consequences of his injuries have made feeding very complicated and have changed his life and the lives of his family members.
  • Bangladesh: Sohel
    Young Sohel climbed the roof of a mosque to take a look at its renovation work. He stumbled on construction materials, fell and died. He was 14 years old, and the main breadwinner for his family.
  • Egypt: Deana
    Deana died at the age of 17 years while trying to cross a busy street in Maadi. There was no pedestrian crossing, and she was struck and killed by a speeding bus. She was going to a birthday party with four friends.
  • Mexico: Martha
    Six-year-old Martha fell into an uncovered well. As a result of the fall, she is mentally disabled and needs help for all her daily needs. Holding himself responsible, her older brother Juan has dropped out of school.
  • New Zeland: Ruby
    Ruby miraculously recovered after a near drowning in their swimming pool when she was 14 months old. But her family have been told that if there is any long-term neurological damage, it may only become evident when she starts school.
  • South Africa: Vusi
    At the age of 13 years, Vusi suffered serious burns when his bedroom was ablaze from a candle that had fallen over. He has been left with permanent scars on his face, hands and chest.

Related links