Pretoria - South Africans have been urged not to put added strain on the health system during the festive season by putting oneself at unnecessary risk of injury or even death.
"Our health care professionals have dedicated their time and service to be available for any emergencies. Let us not distract them from treating those in need of emergency health care by putting ourselves at risk of injury or death," said KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
Incidents of violence, injury and death were costing health more each festive season and children, girls in particular,usually paid the highest price in KwaZulu-Natal, said the MEC.
He added that parents should therefore take extra precaution with children who may become victims of rape or other unintentional injuries such as burns and falling.
The National Injury Mortality Surveillance System (NIMSS) has revealed that fatal injuries, especially as a consequence of violence and motor vehicle collisions, have been identified as a top South African public health priority.
The majority of the annual injury deaths occurred among African and Coloured males in the economically active age range of 15 and 44 years and the leading manner of non-natural death for males was homicide and unintentional injury for females.
More than half of all homicides were inflicted by firearms and a third by sharp instruments, most of these deaths occurred in private homes.
The NIMSS revealed that most prominent external causes of death among the other age groups include burns for infants and children younger than five years, pedestrian injuries to children between five and 14 years of age, and then firearm injuries from 15 years onwards.
Blood alcohol levels were particularly elevated in firearm and sharp instrument homicides and among the pedestrians and drivers who die in motor vehicle crashes, NIMSS reported.
Dr Dhlomo encouraged communities to start neighbourhood safety committees to ensure that they prevent all unnatural injuries and deaths.
"Let this festive season be accident and injury free festive season so that we all witness the historic moment during the FIFA World Cup in 2010," he said.