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Locking children in vehicles can be fatal

A family is mourning the untimely passing of their three-year-old daughter recently.

An article titled “Three-year-old locked in car dies, which was published in the March 7, 2020 edition of the Weekend Observer, gave details of the tragedy.

She died from severe heat stroke on Thursday night after she was found unconscious and locked in a car, according to hospital staff.

Her parents took her to the Moto'otua Hospital at about 6.40pm on Thursday evening. But her condition deteriorated, and she passed on shortly before midnight the same evening, says two hospital staff.

The Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) has not given any details on the case with the Ministry’s Deputy Secretary General Dr. Ponifasio Ponifasio refusing to talk to Samoa Observer. The Police had no comment when contacted last Friday.

It is tragic that when the three-year-old girl was left in a locked car, the 84th Extraordinary Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child was in its second last day of its five-day program in Apia.

A lot of times we question the importance of us hosting a conference of such magnitude when we – as guardians of our children – drop our guard and consequently lose a priceless young life that was a gift from God.

We hope that the Police will investigate the circumstances surrounding the girl’s death last Thursday, in order to determine if there were any signs of alleged negligence, when she was locked in the car.

Due to the increasing incidences around the world of children being left unattended in vehicles loosing their lives, countries have introduced tougher laws to address it. 

In the Australian states of New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria, it is a criminal offence to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle.

In the U.S. a total of 20 states have also passed legislation that makes it illegal for a child to be left unattended in a motor vehicle. 

Therefore, this matter should not be taken lightly, if that is the path other nations have already taken to tackle the issue. 

In fact it is too much of a risk for children to be left in vehicles, when you consider the increasing temperatures that we’ve been experiencing lately due to climate change.

And it will only get worse with the U.S. Government releasing its 4th National Climate Assessment in November 2018 and warning that communities in Hawaii and the Pacific can expect more, “rising temperatures, changes in rainfall, increased storminess, and land-use change”.

The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) has warned of an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves as a result of climate change. 

“Extended periods of high day and nighttime temperatures create cumulative physiological stress on the human body which exacerbates the top causes of death globally, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and renal disease,” the UN health body states. “...some populations are more exposed to, more or physiologically or socio-economically vulnerable to physiological stress, exacerbated illness, and an increased risk of death from exposure to excess heat. These include the elderly, infants and children, pregnant women, outdoor and manual workers, athletes, and the poor.”

With scientists forecasting increases in temperature around the world brought on by climate change, as Pacific islanders we can expect more hot and humid days and nights, which can make life very difficult for our children.

We should be proactive in how we deal with the effects of climate change and ensure parents are aware of the facts on how they can keep their children safe. 

Again, we should be reminded of our responsibility to protect the rights of our children, not only as individuals, but as a community and a nation.

And we say this knowing that the three-year-old girl who passed on last Thursday, deserved everything that life had to offer, and not be robbed of it.

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