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Israel child safety improves among OECD countries
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
06/13/2012
National Center for Child Safety and Health and the Health Ministry announce general ranking of 12 of 24 OECD European states.
 
Israel’s record in child safety, for many years unenviable, has improved somewhat, with a general ranking of 12 of 24 OECD countries in Europe, compared to its previous ranking of 15. However, it had a “very low rating” and was below the European average when judged on safety in the home.

This was announced by Beterem – the National Center for Child Safety and Health and the Health Ministry at a press conference on Tuesday.

A total of 376 Israeli children died in mostly preventible accidents between publication of the previous reports in 2009 and 2011. During the first five months of this year, 54 children died in accidents, compared to 39 cases during the same period in 2011.

Much of the credit for the improved rating goes to Beterem, which is based at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva and works throughout the country to promote child safety in the home, neighborhood, public places and on the road.

Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said he was pleased by the higher ranking.

“Responsibility for the safety of our children must be the highest national priority, but unfortunately, the vast majority [of accidents] can be prevented by alertness and taking care of children – especially during the summer months and school vacation that we face,” said Litzman.

The report, he continued, reflected the urgent need to promote the national plan for promoting child safety that the minister prepared with Beterem earlier this year, which was approved by the cabinet in February.

Child deaths in accidents are a global problem. Every day, 2,000 children under the age of 18 are killed. It is a problem primarily in the Western world; in Europe alone, 10,000 children die from accidents in an average year. In Israel, a child dies by accident every two-and-ahalf days, said Prof. Arnon Afek, head of the ministry’s medical administration. A little more than half of the deaths are due to road accidents, but other causes are home and leisure accidents such as burns, choking, falls, unintentional poisoning and drowning.

Beterem director Orly Silbinger said that while the latest statistics are welcome in general, much needs to done to prevent more children from dying. The gap will shrink only if existing laws are enforced, new laws are passed, parents and caregivers are more careful at home, and information and education campaigns are boosted, she added.

The rankings are a special project of the World Health Organization, UNICEF and research institutions.

The countries are rated according to safety in vehicles, as pedestrians, on bicycles, in the water and in prevention of falls, burns, poisoning, choking and similar dangers. Out of a maximum of 60 points, Israel received 38 points in child safety compared to 31.5 three years ago. Out of five possible points for home safety, Israel received only one point, while the European average was two or three points.

Enforcement of laws to protect child safety is weak in Israel, with the lowest socioeconomic groups suffering the most, officials said. But the cost of special safety equipment to prevent harm to children is relatively inexpensive here in comparison to Europe.
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