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National child safety organization Beterem called on the government Tuesday to take on more responsibility in providing families with a safe home environment for their children and create more public awareness to prevent careless but often fatal accidents in the home and in places of entertainment .
"The government believes that it is not responsible for what happens in the home, it says that the way parents behave inside their homes is up to them, but there are so many things that can be done on a national level to create a more secure environment," Dr. Michal Hemmo-Lotem, director of Beterem, told The Jerusalem Post following the organization's annual meeting at the Knesset, in a joint forum of the State Control Committee and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
"Ninety-five percent of injuries in the home are not intentional, most people are loving parents and the pressure to avoid such accidents should not only be on their shoulders," she continued. "We want to return the responsibility to the government."
A recent survey conducted by the organization and presented at Tuesday's meeting noted that a quarter of all parents see the home as being the safest place for their children. However, data collected by Beterem has found that 40 percent of all deaths from injuries among children under the age of 17 are caused by accidents within the home or in places of entertainment. Furthermore, 90% of children hospitalized for injuries in the past year were due to home-based accidents. Children aged one to four are at most risk from such injuries, which include falls, burns, poisoning, choking, strangulation and drowning.
Hemmo-Lotem pointed out that there was simply not enough awareness on how to prevent "these very horrible things from taking place."
"There is not even a word or phrase in Hebrew for 'childproof,'" she said. "When there is no phrase for such an activity, it just shows how big a gap there is in society regarding child safety within the home."
In a joint partnership with the Israel Laboratory Accreditation Authority (ILAA), a government department responsible for assessing the safety levels in the environment, Beterem also outlined to the Knesset committee a strategy designed to prevent these potentially lethal accidents and injuries from occurring.
Aside from the legislation that has to be passed on a government level, Hemmo-Lotem said many of the suggestions were fairly simple and inexpensive. She gave the example of installing smoke detectors in resident buildings or fitting childproof locks on windows to prevent falls. She also highlighted a law approved last March specifying that in new structures, water heater temperatures should not exceed 55 degrees Celsius.
However, Hemmo-Lotem warned that "laws always look to the future and there is still room for the government to help parents living in existing houses to protect their children.
"Some families from low socioeconomic backgrounds can not even afford these cheap preventative measures," she said. "In those cases, the government needs to take on more of a responsibility to help."
Liat Kimchi, head of engineering and construction at the ILAA, added that the two organizations had been working on special criteria to guide families building a new house on what steps they could take to improve child safety within the home.
"This document is for citizens who care enough to protect their children from potential hazards," said Kimchi, who was also present at the meeting. "People building a new house can take this guideline to their contractor and ask for the changes to be made to the structure."
In conclusion, MK Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP), chair of the State Comptroller's Committee, called on the state comptroller to look into the issue of child safety in the home and report back within the coming months.
"This is a wonderful beginning to improving child safety within the home," finished Hemmo-Lotem. "We plan to highlight this issue in the next few years and hopefully the public will start feeling a change soon."