Child injuries

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children aged 5 years and over. There were 18 000 injury deaths in children aged under 15 years. Injuries in children are preventable and there is a huge potential to save children’s lives by concerted public health action. WHO/Europe supports Member States in their efforts to reduce  child injuries by ensuring that the social and physical environments that they live, learn and play in are safe. Deaths from injuries are higher in low- and middle income countries and poorer children bear higher risks than their affluent peers.  WHO/Europe also supports countries to reduce inequalities in injuries; reducing these inequalities is critical to achieving greater equity and greater social justice. 

Key facts and figures on child injuries 

  • Road traffic crashes (23%), drowning (21%), and fire-related deaths (8%) are the major contributors to the annual 18 000 injury deaths in children under fifteen years of age.
  • Injuries are a drain on health systems resulting in over 3 million hospitalizations and emergency hospital visits in the Region. They also affect society at large, and can severely impinge on family income and quality of life.
  • Child injuries are unequally distributed in the world and in Europe: they disproportionately affect children living in countries undergoing the greatest socioeconomic change. There is up to a seven-fold difference between countries with the highest and lowest injury death rates in the WHO European Region.
  • Regardless of country's income, poor children are at highest risk. One of the major risk factors is unsafe environments. For example poorer children may be more exposed to fast traffic, lack of safe areas to play, live in crowded homes with unsafe structures such as stairs without rails or gates, or windows without bars and locks.
  • Young children and their families are especially vulnerable in countries undergoing social and economic transition, where health and social services may be poorly resourced.
  • In 2008, the "European report on child injury prevention" estimated that there were 42000 deaths from unintentional injuries in children and adolescents aged under 20 years. The report also describes the risk factors and the evidence based response that countries need to mount to overcome the burden from this preventable cause of death and disability.