Drowning 2nd leading cause of death for Bangladeshi children under 5
Each year, over 14,000 children in Bangladesh die due to drowning. Although largely unrecognised, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five in the country, making it a major public health problem.
Today (July 25, 2022), on World Drowning Prevention Day, WHO and UNICEF released a joint press release calling on the government, development partners, communities and individuals to do their parts in raising awareness and working to prevent the untimely deaths of thousands of children across the country.
"It is heart-breaking that so many lives are lost each year in this country. We know that these deaths are preventable. We urge individuals, communities and the Government to join us in raising awareness and doing all we can to ensure every child's right to survive and thrive," the release quoted Sheldon Yett, UNICEF representative to Bangladesh, as saying.
Globally, drowning claims the lives of over 230,000 people every year. Nine in ten drowning cases occur in low and middle-income countries, with children under the age of five being at the highest risk.
In Bangladesh, where large areas of land remain submerged due to yearly floods, the absence of awareness and swimming skills can prove to be life-threatening. Children in rural areas who grow up near water bodies are also exposed daily to the risk of drowning.
"Drowning is a significant public health concern and the third leading cause of unintentional death worldwide. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death among children in Bangladesh. WHO recommends strategies and interventions to prevent drowning and continues to promote a multisectoral approach. By enhancing multisectoral collaboration, promoting strong leadership on drowning prevention, and implementing necessary actions, we can prevent the tragedy of drowning and achieve a safer, healthier future for all," according to Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO representative to Bangladesh.
Evidence shows that drowning is preventable through low-cost solutions. Increased awareness among families and communities, providing safety and swimming skills for children and adolescents, ensuring childcare facilities for pre-school children, and national policies and investments for prevention can make a significant difference.
In 2021, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 25 as World Drowning Prevention Day to acknowledge drowning as a leading cause of death around the world and highlight that every drowning death is preventable.
WHO and UNICEF has been working with government and non-government partners around the country to increase awareness on drowning prevention and provide children and adolescents with safe swimming skills.