The Global Crisis of Drowning

July 25th is the World Day for Drowning Prevention. Established by the United Nations in 2021, this day aims to draw attention to drowning prevention as a public health challenge. It also serves as a memorial for those who have lost their lives to drowning and offers support to those who have suffered such losses.

Drowning is a major cause of accidental deaths worldwide, claiming around 236,000 lives each year. It’s particularly concerning for children aged 1-4 years as the highest drowning rates occur in this age group. Drowning is also the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury deaths, accounting for 7% of such fatalities.

This problem is felt globally, but over 90% of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The Western Pacific and South-East Asia Regions experience more than half of all drowning incidents globally. The drowning rates in this region is 27-32 times higher than in countries like the United Kingdom or Germany.

To tackle this crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its first Global report on drowning, urging action to prevent further tragedies. In response, the United Nations declared 25th July as World Drowning Prevention Day. On this day, governments, organizations, and individuals come together to raise awareness and advocate for proven measures like installing barriers, teaching water safety, and improving rescue skills.

Children in a pool learning to swim with body boards.

Taking action

WHO draws attention to a couple of low-cost drowning prevention interventions that can drastically reduce the risk of drowning. These include:

  • Enroll in a swimming and water safety class. This is particularly important for children aged 6 years and above. Not only is swimming a skill for life, but it is also a great way to stay fit and active.
  • Learn how to perform rescue and resuscitation. Survival following drowning greatly improves if cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is performed as soon as a person is removed from water.
  • Always ensure children are constantly supervised by a responsible adult when around water. Whether near a pond, river, beach, swimming pool or bathtub, adult supervision is necessary to ensure that children can enjoy water safely.
  • Always wear a life jacket when travelling on water. Wearing a life jacket at all times when travelling over water is important for people with all levels of swimming ability.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions and ensure any boat you are travelling in has adequate safety equipment and is in good condition.

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