Victorian child deaths spark new campaign

·2-min read

A spike in deaths of Victorian children from unintentional injuries as families spent more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a new month-long national baby safety campaign.

Twenty-nine children in Victoria lost their lives in accidents last year, including eight in the six weeks from August to mid-September amid Melbourne's 112-day lockdown.

That compares to an average of 17 over the previous three years.

Kidsafe Victoria chief executive Melanie Courtney says parents and carers had a lot more to juggle at the time, with many minding and even home-schooling children while working from home.

"It was very challenging," she said.

"Our homes are the most common location where childhood injuries occur. Little ones are naturally curious and so quick - all it takes is a split second for children to get into trouble and that split second can be life changing."

Recently-released nationwide figures from the Royal Life Saving Society also show 25 children aged four and under drowned between mid 2020 and mid 2021, a 108 per cent rise from the previous 12 months.

"Most occurred in swimming pools but dams, fish ponds and even pet bowls were involved," Ms Courtney said.

Over the past 19 years, 532 children under four have drowned in Australia and 40 per cent of those were one-year-olds.

The RLSSA noted the risk of drowning triples as soon as a child starts crawling, peaking shortly after their first birthday.

It is unclear whether these worrying trends have been replicated in the lockdown-ridden middle to backend of 2021 for Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

But in a bid to drive down drownings, accidental strangulations, burns and other incidents, Kidsafe has partnered with a new global initiative to give caregivers a crash course in keeping little ones safe.

Baby Safety Month is running in Australia throughout November and is led by the nation's peak body for infant safety guidelines, the Infant and Nursery Products Alliance of Australia.

Director Tim Wain says there are a number simple habits parents can develop to eliminate hazards around the home and the campaign seeks to address gaps in access to safety information created by the isolated nature of the pandemic.

TIPS FOR BABY SAFETY

* Close bathroom door when not in use

* Store cleaning products and medicines up high or in cupboards with baby safety locks

* No dangling blind or curtain cords

* Keep kids out of kitchen when unsupervised

* Secure furniture and televisions

* Set the bathroom hot water to a maximum 50C

* Add power point covers to unused outlets

* Use back hot plates in kitchen and turn pot handles around

* Create a safe play area children away from heaters, stairs, driveways and other hazards

* Check outside area is free of drowning hazards such as pet water bowls and buckets

* Ensure swimming pools, spas or ponds are surrounded by safety barrier.

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