Wania Maryam Laibah Ahmad was born in 2018 in Alabama, USA. She is the daughter of Dr Ahmad Salam and I (Dr Ruksana Amin Eva), both pursuing our doctoral studies in the USA. We noticed that Wania is a curious toddler, active, and she loves to play in the water. She is quick to discover new things to explore in her surroundings while playing in the water. Wania has also noticed in her playful toddler mind that, the water shines, waves, ripples, reflects, splashes, and can even make things float! What fun! But she does not understand yet that playing in the water can be perilous too and she is not old enough to know what to do when in trouble.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40 drowning-related deaths per hour occur per day worldwide, with 10 deaths per day in the USA alone between 2005-2014. Also, drowning injuries can lead to several health problems such as severe brain damage that may lead to future cognitive disabilities like learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering problems etc.
Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB) in a 2016 survey found, on average, 40 children under the age of 18 dies by drowning and 30 children under 5 die by drowning per day as documented by NGOs.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that drowning is the main public health concern worldwide and it can happen to any family, anywhere without consideration of race, religion, gender, geography, or socio-economic status.
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) reported that drowning is the number one leading cause of injury and death of US children under 4 and claimed the lives of around 1,000 US children in 2017.
Water safety education is important for all ages, but especially for toddlers, it is of paramount importance. Like many parents, we were also concerned about the fact that drowning is the single leading cause of injury death under the age of 4. I had seen many drownings of mostly infants and toddlers from rural areas of Bangladesh. The toddlers fall into a pond or ditch and drown. What a heartbreaking event this is!
Amina (alias), mother of two active and energetic toddlers stated they had been chatting at their friend's place on the weekend and their kids were playing in the playground near the swimming pool. Suddenly, she heard screaming and ran to the spot quickly and found her active, playful, energetic boy floating in the pool. Amina was so overcome that she fainted suddenly. When she opened her eyes, she was with her younger baby boy in the emergency room but her little prince is no more and will never call her mommy again. She lost him forever.
This concerned us a lot regarding Wania's safety while playing in the water. It is quick and silent and young children can drown in water as shallow as an inch or two. There is no splashing that could alert someone that the child is in danger.
Considering all these, we tried to figure out a solution to protect her from water hazards, without ending our daughter's passion for playing in the water. Finally, we figured out that by teaching life-saving skills such as proper, formal swimming lessons, children can be protected from drowning. According to the CDC, proper swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning of children under the age of 4 by 88%.
Since most children want to play in the water for recreational purposes, it is good for parents to sign them up for proper swimming lessons, not only so that they know how to swim, but also acquire the knowledge of water safety and can avoid water hazards.
The writer is a PhD candidate at the Auburn University, USA.