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What happens when children live in unhealthy environments?
Healthy environments for children: facts and figures
Over five million children per year die from illnesses and other conditions caused by the environments in which they live, learn and play.
Around two million children under five die every year from acute respiratory infections, the largest killer of young children. These infections are aggravated by environmental hazards such as indoor air pollution.
The second most common cause of child deaths is diarrhoea, estimated to be responsible for 12 % of the child deaths under five years of age in developing countries - and a total of 1.3 million deaths each year. Diarrhoea may result from a variety of different causes. It is frequently a result of the child consuming pathogens or toxins from dirty hands or through contaminated water or food.
The most common, and most serious vector borne diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes that breed in water close to, or within, the home.
About 50,000 children, aged 0-14 years old, die every year as a result of unintentional poisoning.
In 2001, an estimated 685,000 children under the age of 15 were killed by unintentional injuries including those resulting from road traffic accidents, falls, burns and cases of drownings. Worldwide approximately 20% of deaths due to such injuries occur in children under 15 years old and they are among the ten leading causes of death for this age group.
What can we do to tackle the environmental risks to our children?
The Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA) promotes a number of simple, low-cost, effective and sustainable measures to combat the environmental risks to our children. While a fuller listing of what is possible is available on the HECA website – www.who.int/heca/en – below is a sample of simple measures which can be taken at home or in schools.
Household water security
Hygiene and sanitation
Follow the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food to reduce the risk of foodborne disease: keep clean; separate raw and cooked; cook thoroughly; keep food at safe temperatures; and use safe water and raw materials.
Sources: US Department of Health; The World Health Organization