The children, aged between 8-12, were being transported back from the tournament in a cargo truck. Such vehicles are commonly hired in Bangladesh to carry large groups to festivals and celebrations. At least 60 schoolboys were on the truck. Eye witnesses spoke of them singing and dancing on board as they were being taken home. Travelling in the Chittagong district, over 200km south-east of the capital Dhaka, the truck is believed to have skidded off the muddy road, turning over as it plunged into a ditch. The number of the dead is still unconfirmed and survivors have been taken to a nearby hospital, where at least 10 children are thought to be in a critical condition.
Worldwide, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among children aged 10-19 years. And in Bangladesh, the problem is particularly acute, since many roads are ill-designed and poorly serviced and traffic laws rarely enforced. According to the most recent ‘World Report on Child Injury Prevention’ published by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, traffic injuries account for nearly 40 per cent of all deaths among children aged 10-14 years in Bangladesh. They are also the second most common cause of injury deaths among children under 10 and make up 14 per cent of deaths in those aged 15-17 years.
Children are more susceptible to injury and death in traffic accidents because of their smaller height and less developed physical characteristics. Compared to the impact of a crash on an adult, a child’s head, chest, abdomen and limbs are all physically more vulnerable because of their relative softness and immature state. Though few studies have been carried out on the risk to children involved in heavy vehicle crashes, unsafe buses and unsuitable transport vehicles are frequently involved in major crashes involving children in low- and middle-income countries.
In the Guardian’s report on the accident in Bangladesh, troops were said to have joined rescue teams and doctors who went from nearby towns to treat the schoolboy survivors. However, the paper reported that local residents were angered by how long it took experienced rescuers to arrive on the scene. Surveys conducted in Asia have frequently highlighted the fact that numerous people die from injuries in road traffic accidents because they do not receive prompt medical care. And in this tragic accident in Bangladesh, any delay in the injured children receiving emergency medical care may well have added to the death toll.