#WorldFirstAidDay: First aid for children and by children

Dr Gwen Pang
The 2016 theme for World First Aid Day 'reflects both the reality that today's children face when it comes to the dangers of everyday life, as well as our best hope in resolving these problems'

For this year’s World First Aid day, the focus is all about children.

Aside from being the most vulnerable members of our society, child injuries (or violence to children) have become a global health issue.

Every year, nearly 1 million children around the world die from injuries, while tens of millions more require serious medical attention for non-fatal injuries – some resulting in permanent disabilities.

Even more disturbing, most of these deaths (and this is true for about 950,000 children under the age of 18), are due to unintentional injuries – the result of traffic accidents, drowning, burns, falls, and poisoning.

In some countries, these incidents have become the leading cause of death for children after their first birthday.

Drowning, in particular, is among the  leading causes of death of children and young people, with kids under the age of 5 reported to be most at risk.

And while the statistics can seem bleak, there is a lot that we can do to make a difference in these children’s lives.

First aid for children, by children

For us at the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), addressing these issues are of paramount concern, and we believe that children themselves represent our best hope in having a significant impact on this problem in the long term.

In fact, this year’s theme for World First Aid day is  “First aid for children and by children,” which reflects both the reality that today’s children face when it comes to the dangers of everyday life, as well as our best hope in resolving these problems.

 In 2015, 26% of the world’s population was under 15 years of age. By 2050, there will be nearly 10 billion people of which 2.6 billion will be under 18. This means that a significant portion of today’s global population consists of children, and they will be the ones in the forefront of our society in the near future.

And this also means that if we want to protect the future generations of humanity, we have to train today’s children in First Aid so that they can be engaged, along with their parents, in their own health and well-being.

These accidents that take their lives, or injure them, cannot entirely be avoided – but we can train our children how to react effectively in emergencies and provide assistance to other kids or their and families, if it becomes necessary.

WORLD FIRST AID DAY. A Philippine Red Cross (PRC) volunteer demonstrates to children common first aid skills on September 10 at the Manila Ocean Park, where the humanitarian organization is observing the World First Aid Day. Photo by PRC

Even at an early age, kids have shown the world that they can learn First Aid, and often, these skills are retained as they grow up to become productive members of society and their communities.

In short, whatever resources we can allocate for their First Aid training will one day yield concrete benefits in terms of having a more resilient society with capable and healthy citizens.

This, of course, is true all over the world, and our focus should be on ensuring that this learning process is begun at an early age.

In fact, citizens from all countries should urge their governments to make first aid training and education for teachers and students mandatory in schools.

First Aid PH

For its part, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement have taken on a global role in reaching tens of millions of people each year with first aid and preventive health messages.

In 2014 alone , approximately 15 million people were trained by the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 116 countries around the globe by more than  180,000 active first aid trainers.

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also have First Aid courses specially designed for children, and some have come up with innovative ways to reach them.

For instance, the Philippine Red Cross recently released a free app called “First Aid PH” that gives anyone, even young children, instant access to pertinent information about common first aid emergencies. The app, which can be accessed offline and without an internet connection, has videos and animation to make learning first aid fun for children. It also contains safety tips, and simple step-by-step instructions to take them through everyday first aid scenarios. 

But this is just the beginning. We can definitely do more. And we can start by teaching our children that First Aid is an important life-saving skill that may one day save their lives or people around them in times of emergencies, especially the ones they love.

Dr Gwen Pang, the former Secretary General of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), now heads the East Asia Country Cluster for the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC).




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