Intended for healthcare professionals


Violence against children is widespread

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 19 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:822
  1. John Zarocostas
  1. Geneva

    A United Nations report on violence against children says that each year more than 50 000 children are killed as a result of homicide. Millions are subjected to physical and psychological abuse, discrimination, neglect, maltreatment, and sexual exploitation.

    Embedded Image

    A Chinese child chained by his parents to stop him playing video games

    Credit: SIPA/REX

    The report says, however, that much of this violence “remains hidden” or unreported and asserts that its figures underestimate the problem.

    Nevertheless the data assembled by the independent expert, Sérgio Pinheiro, who founded the Center for the Study of Violence at the University of São Paulo, show that the problem is widespread and pervasive.

    World Health Organization figures that are based on limited country level data show that “almost 53 000 children died worldwide in 2002 as a result of homicide,” the report says.

    However, Professor Pinheiro, who prepared the study for the UN secretary general, also pointed out that studies on non-fatal violence have shown that “for every youth homicide there are around 20 to 40 victims of nonfatal youth violence requiring hospital treatment.”

    The acting chief of WHO, Anders Nordström, said: “No matter whether it occurs in the family, in the school, community, institution or workplace, health workers are at the front in responding to violence against children.”

    The report also says that studies from many countries and regions indicate that up to 98% of children suffer physical punishment in their homes and that about a third of these children are punished with implements.


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