Spreading Awareness on the Importance of Child Safety
It has been almost two decades since June 21, 2007 when former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proclaimed the third week of June as National Safe Kids Week in the Philippines. Our national government, backed up by non-profit organizations and global partners such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), continues to work hard for the safety of all children. However, the dangers to children leading to unintentional death are still prevalent.
Studies show that unintentional injury continues to be the leading cause of death among children fourteen years old and younger. Most of these unintentional deaths cite bike, pedestrian, motor vehicle occupant injury, falls and drowning as the top events leading to children’s fatality. In their September 2020 article “Children: improving survival and well-being”, WHO states that “injuries (including road traffic injuries and drowning) are the leading causes of death among older children.”
With technology and digitization becoming more accessible to children, new causes of unintentional injury can now also be found online. In an interview with Dr. Ma. Gia Grace B. Sison, MD DPCOM and Head of Makati Med Wellness Center, she recounts that though previously motor and road safety were mostly the focus of National Safe Kids week, recently, the Philippines shifted its focus to online sexual exploitation because “...unfortunately this pandemic, it increased.”
Safer Kids PH, an Australian Government initiative to save children in the Philippines, confirms that “more and more Filipino children are being abused and exploited on the internet.” The community lockdowns due to COVID-19 has brought more than a 200% increase in tips of cybercrime against children.
Dr. Gia strongly suggests that now more than ever, these existing threats to children, both offline and online, require our vigilance and support to child safety advocacy.
Support Safe Kids Philippines and Safe Kids Worldwide initiatives
As Dr. Marty Eichelberger of the Children’s National Hospital founded the Safe Kids in the United States in 1988, support was drawn from major organizations and private companies to help reduce the U.S. childhood death rate from unintentional injury.
33 years later, the cause stands strong and has already expanded worldwide. With Safe Kids Worldwide, efforts throughout the world are pushed forward “to reduce traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more”. Through this non-profit organizations’ extensive network, everyone is called to come together and raise awareness or get involved.
True to this effort, the Philippines heeded the call to echo the initiative through Safe Kids Worldwide Philippine (SKWP) and Safer Kids Philippines (SafeKidsPH).
Since its inception, SKWP has expanded its activities to include prevention of childhood injuries from road traffic, drowning, falls, poisoning, and burns, as well as safety precautions for children who use social media. They continue standing in solidarity with Safe Kids Week through their annual campaigns to raise awareness about a specific injury as the core of the movement each year.
On the other hand, SaferKidsPH, in association with the Philippine government, The Asia Foundation, and UNICEF, moves to reduce and prevent online sexual abuse and exploitation of children by:
- promoting education and proper practices;
- pushing the capacity of justice actors and other guardians of law and order; and
- working to improve service delivery and protection of children in target communities.
Moreover, proponents in national government offices, such as the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Senate, the Congress and more, support the initiatives to improve kids’ safety by establishing rules, regulations and laws. Recent legislation include the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act (Republic Act No. 11229) and Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (Republic Act No. 7610).
The World Health Organization Calls for Action
Though initiatives for kids safety such as awareness campaigns by key organizations and kids safety advocates are in place, there is a need to innovate the way we educate the public. Aside from webinars, virtual tours, and contests, active multi-sector involvement and the government’s full support are also essential.
In the same September 2020 article, WHO appeals to its Member States that “moving from “business as usual” to innovative, multiple, and tailored approaches to increase access, coverage, and quality of child health services will require strategic direction and an optimal mix of community and facility-based care.”.
Help promote the cause: keep kids safer
Ensure a safe and happy physical and virtual environment for children to thrive and be empowered. As UNICEF Philippines Representative, Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, once said:
“We need to make sure that our children are protected at all times, so they can survive, thrive, and reach their full potential,”
We must pause and convene to establish a more heightened response for the safety of all children. The evolving environment surrounding kids demands dynamic and adaptive interventions to ensure kids’ safety and survival.
Every child’s safety is a shared responsibility.