Child Safety in Developing Nations– Ensuring a secure future for our little bundles of joy

Every day, 25 children in India die in traffic accidents, which indeed is a frightening statistic for any parent across the globe. The overall number of accidents affecting children in India each year, according to 2017 estimates, is a staggering 9,408. Many of these crashes occur on two-wheelers and are consequent of the fact that the motorist and the other passenger was not wearing a helmet.

Child Safety in Developing Nations– Ensuring a Secure Future for Our Little Bundles of Joy

In the contemporary era, where most families have dual income parents, travelling with our young ones in our cars while dropping them off to daycare or while visiting the grocery store or even simply for an appointment with a pediatrician is a regular affair. Yet, an alarming and disheartening fact that accompanies this practice is that in developing nations, about 90% of the disability-adjusted life years are lost globally owing to road traffic accidents. In motor vehicle collisions involving children aged 12 and under in 2019, 608 children died, and more than 91,000 were severely injured. In such an accident, 38 percent of youngsters aged 12 and under were not strapped up. Sadly, our children are not immune to any of this because even though it may look like a seemingly minute thing to not use car safety seats or seat belts or helmets while travelling by road with a younger one, these tools can make a world of difference in case of accidents.

While road traffic injuries are the greatest cause of death among school-aged children and adolescents worldwide, and they disproportionately impact developing nations, over the past couple of decades, the awareness regarding safer modes of travelling and using the right equipment to lessen the odds of such mishaps have been on the rise. In the developed nations, we see that CSS (car safety seats) are a law-regulated mandate when travelling with a toddler, but the same cannot be said for the developing nations. The reason behind the same can stem from a myriad of factors.

As the laws that supplement road safety for children, especially those travelling by a four or a two-wheeler, are comparatively less stringent in these countries, a general lack of awareness regarding the available equipment and tools is on the lower end of the spectrum. Additionally, in comparison to developed nations, in developing countries, the buying capacity of most families might not be enough to accommodate such safety equipment. In such nations, socio-economic variables, particularly income, typically impact the mode of transportation choice. Moreover, due to a lack of resources, administrative issues, and corruption, developing nations have a difficult time enforcing traffic safety standards.

Yet, that does not account for the fact that the gap between action and awareness is seemingly vast.

“With improved road safety regulation and enforcement, we can avoid this terrible loss of life that exacts a heavy toll on families and society as a whole,” said Dr Robert Scherpbier, Chief of Health, Nutrition and WASH at UNICEF China. To curb this problem in developing nations, a wave of robust government-aided and NGO-backed awareness campaigns is needed in tandem with the establishment and enforcement of more stringent laws that look at road safety of children as a necessity and not a luxury. The reason behind advocating for the implementation of more iron-clad and stringent laws in this case also stems from the fact that pedestrians and secondary passengers are the primary victims of road traffic injuries in developing countries, as opposed to drivers occupants, who account for the majority of deaths and impairments in industrialized countries. Moreover, the problem is not as di-fold as this. It also includes the need for building safer roads and maintaining them on a regular basis.

As bleak as it all sounds, there has been some augmentation in this realm of safety that has primarily been focussing on deploying education and enforcement of the law as the harbingers of change. In a number of developing countries, as the graph of the buying capacity for the lower-middle class is rapidly rising, so is their awareness of employing means to ensure the safety of their children. With nuclear families on the rise, in the socio-economically developing demographic, parents are reading and learning more about child safety rather than relying on taking instinctive measures alone.

In most countries, parents have come to realise that it is advisable for children under the age of 12 to travel in the backseat of a car. Rear-seat restraining decreases the chance of fatal injury by around three-quarters for children under the age of three and almost half for children aged four to eight. Furthermore, in some developing countries, even the law is being restructured in a way that it accommodates the road safety needs of our young ones in tandem with those of the older population to establish regulations that look at road safety from an eclectic lens.

The best way to facilitate a change like this outside of your immediate geography is to spread the word about its pertinence. What might be a seemingly regular or routine matter for you, like strapping a seat belt over a child or using a helmet, might come across as new information to someone from a different socio-economic demographic. For the safety of our own children and of others, we need to create a world that is more action and awareness-driven, where we voice out safety concerns in the most proactive manner possible.