Bangladesh: Sohel

Child injuries: the stories behind the statistics
December 2008

At the age of 14 Sohel from Bangladesh was the main breadwinner in his family. He had lost his father at the young age of 7. Because of the family's economic hardship, Sohel dropped out of school when he was in the seventh grade.

Sohel started cultivating their small piece of land. He grew rice and other produce, which were mostly needed for family consumption. To supplement their meagre income, often he used to go fishing with his friends.

It was the rainy season in 2004. Sohel went fishing with two of his friends. On the way back, they stopped at an old mosque which was being renovated. Sohel, an inquisitive boy, climbed up the roof of the mosque to take a look, ignoring his friends’ pleas to come down. Near the edge of the roof, he stumbled on construction materials, lost his footing and fell. He was badly hurt, and was taken to the nearest health centre 15 kilometres away, where he died.

Sohel’s tragic case is not unique in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Health and Injury Survey shows that more than a thousand children under 18 die every year as a result of unintentional falls. Five thousand children are injured from rooftop falls alone. Over 5% of them become permanently disabled while the rest suffer various other consequences.

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A boy standing on the tiled roof of a house.
WHO/C.Khasnabis
Children playing on roofs of houses is a common sight in many Asian countries.