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Don't make homes a death trap for kids, parents in UAE urged

afkarali@khaleejtimes.com Filed on March 11, 2020 | Last updated on March 11, 2020 at 10.26 pm
Homes, death trap, kids, parents, UAE, urged

Negligence is the main cause of recent incidents in which children died after falling from high-rise buildings.

>> On March 10, a six-year-old autistic boy fell to death from the 11th floor of his family apartment in Abu Shagara after he climbed a chair kept near an open window.

>> In December last year, a two-year-old Syrian girl plunged from the eighth floor of her flat in Al Majaz 2 as she was left unattended in the hall while her mother went to the washroom. The window in the hall was left open and the toddler climbed a sofa kept near it and fell as she peeped out.

Negligence is the main cause of recent incidents in which children died after falling from high-rise buildings, Sharjah authorities have said. Top officials at various departments said most of these incidents happen because parents leave objects and furnitures in balconies or near open windows. The kids - from toddlers to 13-year-olds - climb on them and plunge to their deaths, they said.

Police investigations have also indicated that most of the cases have been caused due to negligence of parents, domestic helpers or guardians.

Driving it home

The authorities concerned - the police, civil defence, municipality, safety and prevention authority, children safety foundation and child protection department - recently discussed mechanisms, rules and regulations as well as an awareness programme to prevent such falls.

The authorities said they will continue to educate families about the dangers of keeping furniture and other objects in balconies or near open windows.

A top official at the Sharjah Police said the number of such falls has decreased, but they are still happening. Thabit Al Taraifi, director-general of Sharjah Municipality, said that despite efforts taken by the authorities to prevent such incidents, they keep happening because of negligence by guardians.

Balconies shouldn't be used as storerooms

To curb these accidents, the Sharjah government introduced a slew of measures in 2017 and amended the technical requirements for residential windows and balconies. The changes were made mandatory by the Sharjah Municipality for landlords and contractors. The civic body, in coordination with the departments concerned, continues to carry out inspections to ensure that all buildings are safe for children and to check they are complying with the amended regulations and requirements.

The municipality has obliged all residential buildings in Sharjah, including the old ones, to have safety locks for windows while railings for balconies should be a minimum 120cm in height. All residents of old buildings have been instructed to instal locks on windows and ensure that the children aren't able to open these more than 5 to 10 centimetres.

The municipality has warned residents from using balcony as a storeroom, which could make children climb on top of these things and put their lives at risk.

A top official at the Sharjah Social Development Department said leaving children unattended or failing to secure windows with locks that result in any kind of harm to the child is considered as negligence. Most of the time, parents depend on housemaids to monitor their children without realising that most domestic helpers are often engaged on their mobile phones and pay scant attention to the kids, he pointed out.

Dh5,000 fine, jail for neglecting child

Moza Al Raysi, a legal advisor at the Sharjah courts, said that according to Article 35 of the Child Protection Law, also known as Wadeema Law, parents whose children die after falling off high-rises or face any kind of abuse will be penalised. The law also penalises parents who neglect their child, with imprisonment and hefty fines. Article 60 of the law stipulates fines of Dh5,000 and a jail term of not less than a year for parents found guilty of neglect.

Steps to safety

>>Move furniture away from windows and balconies. A bed, couch or other furniture allows a child to get higher and closer to a window.

>>Only open the windows that are outside of a child's reach or climbing distance. Open double-hung windows from the top. A child can fall from a window opened as little as five inches.

>>Window screens will not keep your child from falling. If you must open a window within a child's reach or climbing distance, instal an operable window guard. Window guards have horizontal bars (no more than four inches apart) that screw into the side of a window frame. They are available in different sizes.

>>Monitor window safety at your child care location and anywhere that your child visits.

afkarali@khaleejtimes.com

Afkar Abdullah


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