MK: Failure to budget child safety costs lives

Advocacy group Beterem tells Knesset panel 13 youngsters died from accidents in April.

(photo credit: KNESSET)
Thirteen children died in the past month, and a child dies in the country every two days on average, from largely preventable accidents – according to Beterem, the Israel National Center for Child Safety and Health.
In the most recent case, an 11-month-old boy, one of twins, who was found face down in the home bathtub last week, died on Monday. His caregiver had given to the bathroom and left him and his sister in two baby floats. He slipped out of his.
Likud Beytenu MK Orly Levy-Abecassis, chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for Children’s Rights, said in a session on Monday: “Every day that passes without state funding for the National Program for Child Safety, it costs us more children’s lives.”
Since the beginning of the year there has been an increase in preventable accidents in and around homes. Children in the periphery of the country are 2.5 times more likely to get hurt than those in the center. Meanwhile, Arab children are four times more likely to get hurt than Jewish children, largely because of the positioning of vehicles close to where Arab children play, inadequate infrastructure, the risk of falling off roofs and lack of awareness – according to Beterem’s annual report, which was discussed by the committee.
Beterem director-general Orly Silbinger said that every three minutes a child is brought to a hospital emergency room – with the number of admissions reaching 500 daily.
Accidents are much more common in the summer, when children are out of school and unsupervised and when babies and toddlers are left in locked, broiling vehicles by forgetful parents, drivers and caregivers.
Wolfson Medical Center director Dr. Yitzhak Berlovich, head of the National Program for Child Safety, said that “looking back, almost every accident affecting children could have been prevented. Every youngster who is killed means an average loss of 75 potential years of life. The cost of dealing with harm from accidents is NIS 1 billion, and the cost of implementing the national program is a fraction at only NIS 60 million – a ridiculously low figure compared to the cost to human lives that could be saved.”
Prof. Arnon Afek, who will become director-general of the Health Ministry on Sunday, said that “these large numbers are terrible tragedies; whole families are destroyed. Steps must be made to prevent this destruction. Sixteen different ministries are involved, and there is much to be corrected and changed. Things are happening, but there are things that can be carried out before the national program is implemented... Infrastructures are just as important as health.”
Afek called on the Knesset committee to help persuade the Treasury to allocate funds for implementation of the national program.
Since the beginning of this month there has been an increase in accidents adjacent to homes – and five deaths. The 2014 budget of the Road Safety Authority has not yet been approved, so the authority is carrying out only basic functions.
Last year, said Levy-Abecassis, 30 percent of the authority’s budget was not utilized and instead returned to the Treasury. “We are struggling for every penny, and at the end, the money is not used.
Every ministry or government body that did not fully use its budget for lifesaving purposes is a criminal,” she declared.