THE biggest killer of South African children aged between one and 18 is not infectious disease – it’s a mix of accidents and injuries.
In South Africa, most children – some 32% – die in road traffic crashes, followed by drowning (17 %) and burn wounds at 9 %. All are preventable. It’s this very prevention that drives the NGO Childsafe South Africa which provides critical research and intervention programmes to reduce and prevent intentional and unintentional childhood injuries.
A R1 million grant from Discovery last year, as part of the Discovery Foundation Excellence Awards programme, has been a “game-changer” for the organisation.
Said Childsafe chair, Professor Sebastian van As: “This funding has made it possible to appoint a new executive director to drive our programmes from the Western Cape, where Childsafe is based, to other provinces in the near future and especially to Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal.”
Childsafe’s expansion focus includes training workshops for healthcare professionals such as special care nurses, general nurses an social workers, to educate and empower them to take comprehensive knowledge on childhood injury prevention into their communities.
Since receiving the grant, a series of insights resulting from Childsafe’s work and research has been published by the South African Medical Journal in their 2017 editions. These insights include access to clean, safe and sustainable energy technologies for impoverished families, the use of child restraints in motor vehicles, research into physical and sexual violence against children, the prevention of ingestion of caustic and foreign bodies by young children, policy on protecting children, and more.
“Our current growth phase is very exciting for us as we will expand our activities and spread our message to help more people create safer environments for children,” says Van As.
“The roads are hazardous for all South Africans, with children often exposed to danger in minibuses on their way to or from school,” said Van As, based at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town. “Every year we treat around 200 kids ejected from cars because they were not strapped in. That’s almost one a day.”
Childhood deaths are only the tip of the iceberg, he said. “Vast numbers of children are left with physical and mental scarring, mutilation and disability. As expected, the greatest burden is carried by low- and middle-income countries and regions, where over 95 % of all deaths of injured children occur,” he said.
“It’s a tragedy. We are working to create a society in which all children can grow up safely and prosper without the threat of a serious injury impacting on their lives.”
By studying the various injuries that children present with, Childsafe has identified patterns of injury and ways to prevent them. “We set up a database to clearly identify the causes and effects of accidents. We have entered information on close to 200 000 children and with this, we design programmes to help prevent accidents,” said Van As.
The Red Cross Children’s Hospital alone treats approximately 10 000 injured children annually.
The Discovery Foundation Awards, launched in 2006, have over the past decade secured significant investment for individuals and programmes engaged in bringing excellence into public healthcare.
Said Ruth Lewin, Discovery’s head of corporate sustainability: “Our grant to Childsafe recognises their crucial efforts to protect children, and has allowed them to begin expanding their operations throughout South Africa.“
The Discovery Foundation Awards have over the past decade secured significant investment in:
- Cultivating skilled medical professionals in all areas of healthcare – and especially in areas of greatest need.
- Training people and investing in medical education to support existing government programmes and address resource and skills gaps.
- Building experienced specialist skills in South Africa to ensure available skills to train the next generation of healthcare providers.
- Nurturing and keeping much-needed medical skills in rural communities.
- Improving on environments and infrastructure that support training and development of medical professionals.
The Discovery Foundation has supported the training of 300 new medical professionals working in South Africa’s public healthcare system. “There is a specific focus on producing talent to address under-resourcing in rural areas, to further Academic Medicine and to increase the number of sub-specialists in the country, particularly in areas of greatest need,” said Lewin.
The awards are allocated annually by the Discovery Foundation and offer financial support to talented academics and clinicians to allow them further training, research and development in their field.
“Hundreds of outstanding doctors and institutions have received Discovery Foundation Awards over the past 10 years. Many have tangibly improved health outcomes for the people and communities they serve, while others have gone on to influence policy on a broader scale.
“The annual Discovery Foundation Awards represent Discovery’s investment in promising medical professionals dedicated to excellence in the public sector, and to propelling them forward in their academic and clinical ambitions to the benefit of all South Africans,” adds Lewin.