“Do One Thing” to Prevent Drowning, Says WHO 
drowning prevention
Swimming lessons

The World Health Organization has issued a call for people around the world to “do one thing” to prevent drowning, on the occasion of World Drowning Prevention Day

Drowning tragically claims more than 236,000 lives each year, and is one of the leading causes of death globally for young children and young people aged 1 – 24, and the third leading cause of injury-related death overall.

More than 90% of drowning related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with children under 5 at the highest risk. These deaths are frequently linked to  daily, routine activities, such as bathing, collecting water for domestic use, traveling over water on boats or ferries, and fishing. 

Children travelling by boat

Seasonal or extreme weather events, including monsoons, also are a frequent cause of drowning. 

These deaths are highly preventable through a series of interventions, says WHO. 

“Every year, around the world, hundreds of thousands of people drown. Most of these deaths are preventable through evidence-based, low-cost solutions,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

“In many cases, we know what works to prevent drowning. We’ve developed tools and guidance to help governments implement solutions – and if we do more together, we really can save thousands of lives,” said Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries

Low-cost prevention strategies 

Resuscitation classes

With the theme of this year’s World Drowning Prevention Day to “do one thing” to prevent drowning, WHO invited the global community – individuals, groups, and governments – to engage in at least one of several prevention strategies: 

Individuals can share drowning prevention and water safety advice with their families, friends and colleagues, sign up for swimming or water safety lessons, or support local drowning prevention charities and groups.

Groups can host public events to share water safety information, launch water safety campaigns, or commit to developing or delivering new drowning prevention programmes using recommended best practice interventions.

Governments can develop or announce new drowning prevention policies, strategies, legislation or investment, convene discussions on drowning burden and solutions, and introduce or commit to supporting drowning prevention programming domestically or internationally.

WHO also recommends six engineering and environmental measures to prevent drowning, including: installing barriers controlling access to water; training bystanders in safe rescue and resuscitation; teaching school-aged children basic swimming and water safety skills; providing supervised day care for children; setting and enforcing safe boating, shipping and ferry regulations; and improving flood risk management.

In May 2022, WHO has also published its latest guidance on best practice recommendations for three of these interventions: the provision of daycare for children, basic swimming and water safety skills, and safe rescue and resuscitation training.  

Bangladesh, Uganda and others commit to drowning prevention programmes 

Community Swimming Instructor training held at Tiakhali, Kolapara in Bangladesh

Many countries have already committed to drowning prevention programmes.

Bangladesh has started a 3-year program to reduce drowning among children throughout the country. As part of the program, the government will take over the 2,500 daycares established and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and will expand the program by adding an additional 5,5000 daycares, providing supervision to 200000 children aged 1 – 5 years. 

Uganda and Vietnam also conduct drowning-prevention activities such as supervision of children in daycare, survival swimming instruction to children ages 6 – 15, and enhanced data collection. Uganda and Ghana are also receiving support to study the circumstances of drowning.  

Lighting up Geneva’s Jet d’Eau and other monuments blue to galvanize action 

To galvanize action towards drowning prevention, Geneva’s “Jet d’Eau,” which sprays a powerful shower of water from Lake Leman over the skyline of Geneva, Switzerland, will be illuminated blue this evening, accompanied by similar actions in other cities around the world. 

“Today, cities around the world are lighting up their monuments in blue light as a call to action for each of us to do our part to prevent drowning. Let’s put a stop to drowning,” said Tedros. 

Image Credits: WHO, WHO, WHO, WHO.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.