x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A societal failure in toddler's accident

Issuing fines? Locking up unsafe parents? Something must be done to protect children from careless caregivers.

No matter how many senseless tragedies we see, safety lessons are just not being learnt.

As The National reported yesterday, a 3-year-old girl fell to her death on Tuesday from a fifth-floor window only weeks after police had rescued the same girl after she was spotted leaning from the same window in the same Abu Dhabi apartment. In December, a policeman forced his way into her family home in Abu Dhabi and discovered that the child had been left alone while both parents were at work. This time, the child's aunt was sleeping in the next room.

That such a close call was not heeded by the family is staggering, and begs the question: exactly what will it take for some parents to become more vigilant about protecting their young children? Every parent loves his or her child, but how to translate that into action?

The girl becomes the seventh to have been killed in similar circumstance across the Emirates since September.

On these pages we have consistently called on authorities to implement stricter safety measures to prevent such accidents from taking place. Safety hatches on windows and higher balcony railings are two areas where existing building codes can be further improved.

Unfortunately, all the building legislation and safety measures on earth are pointless if parents fail to properly monitor their children's safety. That mothers and fathers who endure these tragedies love their children is not in question; their actions to preserve their well-being is, however.

Similarly, we are certain that parents who do not strap their children in car safety seats are not in any way intentionally putting them in harm's way. But the reality is that, thanks to lack of awareness about simple safety rules, they are doing so. At least on the road, police can fine irresponsible parents if they are caught in the act.

As things stand, punishing parents for leaving children at home alone is far more difficult to enforce. But something has to be done, even if it means charging parents after the event.

The parents in this case have already paid the heaviest price. Deterring careless parenting behaviour and instilling a new culture of child safety is a challenge for the entire society. And the costs of failure are children's lives.