By Dominique Herman

Last year in South Africa, 1 200 children were murdered, 1 500 were the victims of attempted murder, 24 000 were assaulted and 22 000 raped.

This was the word from Sebastian van As, head of the trauma unit at the Red Cross Children's Hospital and director of the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Southern Africa (CAPFSA), who said that South African children are supposed to have rights according to the constitution.

"We very much know this is not reflected in the real world," he said on Monday.

Van As was speaking at the launch of a book he co-wrote with Sudeshni Naidoo - professor and principal specialist in the department of community oral health, faculty of dentistry, at the University of the Western Cape - entitled Paediatric Trauma and Child Abuse.

The book is aimed at the medical, law enforcement and teaching fraternities - specifically for the management of injured and abused children.

Injuries are the biggest killer globally of children between the ages of one and 18 - many of them a result of negligent care-givers and unsafe home environments and, therefore, avoidable, Van As said.

Almost a million people globally under the age of 50, including 700 000 children, die every year from injuries and accidents. But 400 million children globally are injured and admitted to hospital every year.

CAPFSA assistant director Nelmarie du Toit said an estimated 67 000 children under the age of 15 died every year across the country from unnatural deaths. Predominant among those were pedestrian injuries, drownings, burns, and motor vehicle passenger accidents. Accidents resulting from firearms were a bigger problem among the older children of that age group, she said.

Between 8 000 and 10 000 children were admitted to the Red Cross trauma unit every year, 40 percent of which were a result of falls - from bunk beds, roofs, roller skates and skateboards. The other top injuries suffered by children were burns and poisoning.

Between 75 percent and 80 percent of those injuries occurred in and around the home. "Clearly this indicates to us that children are not living in a safe environment," Du Toit said.

All royalties from sales of the book will go to CAPFSA.