Such fatalities three times higher in rural areas, says study

Unintentional injuries among children younger than five led to approximately 82,000 deaths in India in 2005. These are two to three times higher than previous estimates for injury deaths among children, as reported by a new study published by Injury Prevention (British Medical Journal). Such injuries were the sixth leading cause of death among children in this age group, with higher risks in rural areas.

Drowning was the leading cause of child injury deaths, accounting for over 30 per cent. More children die from drowning in India than anywhere else in the world, and over 26,000 drowned in 2005. The north-eastern and eastern regions of the country are hit heavily by monsoon rains, which cause flooding in the major rivers, such as the Brahmaputra, Ganga, and its tributaries, leaving behind flooded waterways and open water ponds that pose significant drowning risks. Deaths due to drowning were three times higher in rural areas compared to urban areas, and were also higher in boys compared to girls.

 Injuries from falls led to 12,000 deaths in this age group in 2005. Falls were the leading cause of fatalities in the urban areas, with almost a quarter occurring from building structures. In rural areas, deaths from road traffic injury were reported in higher numbers than falls. More than 40 per cent of the children who died in a road traffic crash were pedestrians hit by a car or a heavy vehicle.

 Authors note that while major investments to prevent childhood deaths by reducing the burden of infectious conditions, ensuring better nutrition, and promoting safe motherhood continue to be made, avoidable deaths due to injury received substantially less attention. They conclude that childhood injury is a significant burden for which prevention programmes should be urgently prioritised.

These results were collected from the Million Death Study (MDS), one of the largest studies of premature mortality in the world. Using a method called verbal autopsy, MDS seeks to assign causes to deaths occurring in all parts of India.

The study was led by the Registrar General of India and co-authored by Professor Prabhat Jha, Centre for Global Health Research, St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto, and involved researchers from The George Institute for Global Health, University of Sydney, Australia.

More In: National | News