The World Health Organisation’s first global report on ‘Drowning: preventing a leading killer’ reveals that drowning claims the lives of 372,000 people each year and is among the ten leading causes of death for children and young people in every region.
In India, the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) reports show that there have been 30,041 deaths due to drowning in 2013 accounting for 7.5% of accidental deaths in the country at a rate of 2.4 deaths per 1000 population. There has been a 9% increase in the number of drowning cases in 2013 over the 2012 figure of 27,558. Among states, Lakshwadeep, Goa and Andaman and Nicobar Islands have the highest percentage share of deaths due to drowning.
Drowning is among the ten leading causes of death for children and young people. Globally, over half the deaths are among those aged less than 25 years. The highest rate of drowning is among children below 5 years of age.
The report released on Tuesday calls for a substantial scaling-up of efforts and resources to prevent drowning and outlines several actions to be taken by both national policy-makers and local communities. “Efforts to reduce child mortality have brought remarkable gains in recent decades, but they have also revealed otherwise hidden childhood killers,” says WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan in a release.
Strategies for local communities include: installing barriers to control access to water; providing safe places such as day care centres for children; teaching children basic swimming skills and training bystanders in safe rescue and resuscitation.
At national level, interventions include: adoption of improved boating, shipping and ferry regulations, better flood risk management and comprehensive water safety policies.
“Almost all water presents a drowning risk, particularly inside and around our homes” says WHO Director for the Department for Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention Dr Etienne Krug.
She added, “Drowning occurs in bathtubs, buckets, ponds, rivers, ditches and pools, as people go about their daily lives. Losing hundreds of thousands of lives this way is unacceptable, given what we know about prevention.”
The report also draws attention to the need of making drowning prevention an integral part of current debates, such as climate change which leads to floods, mass migrations including that of asylum seekers traveling by boat and issues such as rural development, water and sanitation.
Findings from the report:
*Globally, over half of all drowning deaths are among those aged under 25 years.
*The highest rates of drowning are among children under five years of age.
* Males are two times more likely to drown than females.
* More than 90% of drowning occurs in low- and middle-income countries, with the highest rates in the African, South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions