Violence and Injury Prevention

2004-05 biennial report


I am pleased to share with you the biennial report 2004-2005 of the World Health Organization (WHO) Area of Work on injuries, violence and disabilities. The report describes the most salient activities conducted by WHO headquarters and regional and country offices in this area. Most of these activities are conducted in close collaboration with other agencies and institutions. All of these partners are warmly thanked for their support and collaboration.

This report shows considerable progress in raising awareness about injuries and violence and their prevention. In all regions of the world, governmental and nongovernmental agencies are strengthening data collection systems, improving services for victims and survivors and increasing prevention efforts. I want to pay tribute to all those involved, and particularly to the WHO staff for their commitment, enthusiasm and perseverance. The many activities described below are a summary of the flurry of collaborative initiatives that were conducted throughout the biennium.

The biennium started on a high note with the launch in January 2004 of the Violence Prevention Alliance. The members of the Alliance - governments, nongovernmental organizations and foundations - take a public health approach to preventing violence, and focus on implementing the recommendations of the World report on violence and health. An October 2005 meeting hosted by WHO and the California Wellness Foundation, Second Milestones of a Global Campaign for Violence Prevention, demonstrated through many country case studies the considerable progress made by governments, nongovernmental organizations and academia in the areas of data collection, violence prevention, and services for victims. A series of WHO publications released since 2004, including Preventing violence: a guide to implementing the recommendations of the World report on violence and health, assist them in their efforts.

"Road Safety is No Accident" was the slogan of the highly successful World Health Day celebrated on 7 April 2004. This Day was a powerful catalyst for raising international attention to road safety. Events took place in every country of the world. These varied from a remembrance garden dedication in South Africa to a helmet programme in Cambodia and from a road safety film festival in Lebanon to the passing of a new seat-belt law in Hungary. This global advocacy event also provided the ideal opportunity for launching the joint WHO and World Bank World report on road traffic injury prevention. Subsequent resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly and the World Health Assembly have invited WHO to coordinate road safety efforts across the United Nations system, in collaboration with the United Nations regional commissions. This coordination and follow-up in terms of assisting countries to implement the recommendations of the world report are being achieved through the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration, a network of eleven United Nations agencies and more than 30 global, regional and national road safety organizations. Three meetings of the collaboration have taken place since April 2004. To date, efforts of the collaboration have focused on developing detailed guidance for countries on key factors (helmets, seat-belts and child restraints, speed, drinking and driving, and infrastructure) and on continued awareness raising.

In October 2005, WHO released TEACH-VIP, a CD-ROM and users’ manual for use in providing training in violence and injury prevention. This training tool was developed over the previous three years by a global network of more than 60 violence and injury prevention experts across 19 countries. Created to fulfill the demand on the part of governments and professional groups for knowledge in the area of injuries and violence, TEACH-VIP covers a wide range of topics, including: data collection, violence and injury prevention, policy development, and evaluation of intervention measures. In the year prior to its release, TEACH-VIP was successfully pilot tested in more than 20 settings worldwide. It is currently one of the most sought-after products issued by the WHO Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention.

This biennium has also been an opportunity to strengthen regional and country programmes. WHO regional committees in Africa and Europe placed violence and injury prevention on the agenda of their respective annual meetings.

The WHO Regional Director for the Americas and counterparts from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the United States Department of Transportation and the World Bank signed a joint declaration on World Health Day 2004 to do more to prevent road traffic injuries in the Americas. In addition, several important regional or subregional meetings took place to set the stage for further action. These included a first ever meeting of francophone African ministry of health officials on injury and violence prevention, meetings in the Eastern Mediterranean on national plans of action for road traffic injury prevention and on building capacities for violence prevention, and a consultation in the Americas on road safety. In Europe, delegates at the first regional meeting of ministry of health focal persons for injury and violence prevention adopted the slogan "LIVE - A Life free from Injuries and Violence in Europe", a vision which will guide their work for years to come.

During the past two years, many governments have increased their attention to the issues of injuries, violence and disabilities. WHO has provided them with technical support. Important milestones for violence prevention include: the development of national violence prevention strategies in Malaysia, the Russian Federation, South Africa and Thailand; work on strengthening medical and legal care for victims of sexual violence in Jordan, Mozambique, Nicaragua and the Philippines; and the release of national reports on violence and health in Belgium, Brazil, France and the United Kingdom. With regard to road traffic injury prevention, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mexico, Mozambique, Poland, and Viet Nam are among the countries supported by WHO which have made great strides since World Health Day 2004 in addressing their growing burden by developing road safety strategies and implementing prevention activities.

For disability and rehabilitation, milestones include the adoption of community-based rehabilitation as a national development strategy in El Salvador and Ghana, implementation of the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in 18 countries and the development of national disability policies in more than 50 countries. World Health Assembly resolution WHA58.23 on "Disability, including prevention, management and rehabilitation" was adopted in May 2005 and has provided the impetus to invigorate WHO’s activities in this area. The resolution calls upon Member States to strengthen implementation of the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities; support community-based rehabilitation; include a disability component in national health policies and programmes; and promote the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. As follow-up, WHO will continue to support Member States in these areas, and to provide the scientific basis on which to do so through development of a World report on disability and rehabilitation.

Partnerships have opened up new possibilities. A collaboration with the BBC World Service, for example, has led to two high-profile radio series: "Death on the Roads", broadcast in April 2004 in the context of World Health Day; and "Violence Begins at Home", broadcast in October and November 2005 in the context of the violence prevention milestones meeting. Each series featured four weeks of radio broadcasts from around the world, as well as an accompanying web site.

During the course of our work, we come across family members and loved ones of people killed as a result of an injury, as well as victims and survivors themselves: from Rochelle who lost her son Aron in a bus crash in Turkey a decade ago, to Camilla, a bright young student who fell victim to a random shooting on a street in Brazil, to Avinash, a medical doctor who now struggles with daily life as a quadriplegic as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash in India. Their strength, courage and determination are an inspiration to us to intensify our efforts and continue to work to make the world a safer place for all.

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