Countries urged to take action to prevent drowning

New York: Drowning is preventable using simple, low-cost interventions and every government should make it a priority so the 2.5 million drowning deaths in the past decade will not be repeated.

That is why all 193 members of the UN General Assembly have resolved to encourage every country to take urgent action to prevent drownings.

They called on nations to consider introducing water safety, swimming and first aid lessons as part of school curricula and appoint “a national focal point for drowning prevention”, develop countrywide prevention programs, and enact and enforce water safety laws.

Some 2.5 million people died from drowning in the past decade.

The resolution, co-sponsored by Bangladesh and Ireland and adopted by consensus, is the first to focus on drowning. It establishes July 25 as “World Drowning Prevention Day”.

Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect global opinion.

According to the UN, the world’s highest drowning rates are in Africa while the highest number of drowning deaths are in Asia. More than 90 per cent of drowning deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries.

“Drowning is a social equity issue that disproportionately affects children and adolescents in rural areas, with many countries reporting drowning as the leading cause of childhood mortality and drowning being among the 10 leading causes of death globally for 5 to 14-year-olds,” the resolution says.

It notes “with concern” that the official global estimate of 235,000 annual deaths from drowning excludes drownings attributed to flood-related climate events and water transport incidents. This has resulted “in the under-representation of drowning deaths by up to 50 per cent in some countries,” it says.

The assembly says that “water-related disasters increasingly affect millions of people globally,” in part due to the escalating impact of climate change, “and that flooding affects more people than any other natural hazard, with drowning being the main cause of death during floods.”

Bangladeshi ambassador Rabab Fatima told the assembly after the resolution’s adoption: “The imperative to act on drowning is not simply moral or political. The economic cost is equally untenable.”

He said drowning is a leading cause of child mortality in Bangladesh and in the South Asia region, and the resolution’s call for preventive action is urgent.

Ireland’s UN ambassador, Geraldine Byrne Nason, called the resolution and designation of July 25 as a day for the world to focus on preventing drowning a moment “to highlight the immediate need for strategic and significant international action to save lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.”

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, the World Health Organisation’s global ambassador for non-communicable diseases and injuries, said: “Encouraging governments to adopt effective measures to prevent drowning will save thousands of lives and call attention to this urgent public health issue.”

“We have the tools to prevent these deaths – and need to act on them now,” he said in a statement.


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