On World Drowning Prevention Day, held on July 25 every year, the Lancet published a paper, discussing the challenges in and opportunities for accelerating action on drowning prevention. According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, at least 236,000 people die every year due to drowning – making it one of the 10 leading causes of death.
The paper was written by Dr Jagnoor Jagnoor, Senior Research Fellow at The George Institute of Global Health and Justin-Paul Scarr, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian non-profit Royal Life Saving Society.
“World Health Assembly’s (WHA) resolution aimed at expediting global drowning prevention. The resolution calls for the creation of a Global Status Report on Drowning Prevention, providing insights into the impacts of drowning and the context for prevention efforts across more than 180 countries”, says Dr Jagnoor.
Speaking on the issue of challenges in devising strategies to prevent drowning accidents, Dr Jagnoor added, “Data on drowning is currently fragmented across various sectors, including disaster management, maritime agencies, the police, and the healthcare system. While a perfect national drowning registry is an ideal goal, non-health sector data that can provide contextually relevant insights can help in preventing drowning incidents.”
The paper highlights successful engagement strategies, for example the ‘Children’s Parliaments’ in the Sundarbans region of West Bengal, India, where children aged 8–16 years lead initiatives to raise awareness of drowning prevention through folk songs and social debates.
According to the paper, low-income countries, minority ethnic groups and Indigenous populations are overrepresented in drowning statistics, highlighting the need for tailored outreach initiatives that target these communities.
In 2021, the 76th World Health Assembly adopted its first ever resolution on drowning prevention. In the last decade, drowning has caused over 2.5 million deaths. And the human, social and economic toll of these losses is intolerably high, and can be prevented, says the WHO data.
The World Health Organization data states, more than 90 per cent of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with rural children and adolescents disproportionately affected. These low-income nations account for over 90 per cent of unintentional drowning deaths. Over half of the world’s drowning occurs in the WHO Western Pacific Region and WHO South-East Asia Region, data adds.
The World Drowning Prevention Day serves as an opportunity to highlight the tragic and profound impact of drowning on families and communities. And the need to discuss life-saving solutions to prevent it.