Drowning - the Silent Killer
income countries account for 91 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.
However, the report shows drowning death rates to be highest in the WHO African Region; 10-13 times higher than those witnessed in the United Kingdom or Germany respectively.
“Efforts to reduce child mortality have brought remarkable gains in recent decades but they have also revealed otherwise hidden childhood killers. Drowning is one. This is a needless loss of life,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General at the report’s release.
“Action must be taken by national and local governments to put in place the simple preventative measures articulated by the WHO.”
Some of the risk factors identified by the report include age, gender, access to water, flood disasters and water travels. Other factors mentioned are lower socio-economic status, alcohol use near or in water, medical conditions like epilepsy, and tourists unfamiliar with local water risks and features.
WHO has pointed out that drowning has been highly over- looked, but is a growing silent global killer. It has urged governments and research and policy communities to do more and prioritise drowning prevention and its integration with other public health agendas.
The report has offered recommendations to governments to ‘tailor and implement effective drowning prevention programmes to their settings, improve data, and develop national water safety plans’.
It has also pointed out the multi-sectoral nature of drowning and called for better coordination and collaboration among UN agencies, governments, NGOs and academic institutions to prevent the rise of deaths through drowning.
While conducting the survey, WHO looked at the latest data available in each country, and calculated the rate of drowning as the deaths per every 100,000 people within the population annually.
In order to develop preventative programs, WHO has worked with Ministries of Health, at country level, in a number of low and middle income countries to prevent drowning through use of barriers controlling access to water, and establishment of day care centres for pre-school children.
The organisation has also funded research in low income countries exploring priority questions related to drowning prevention