Global governments call for historic UN resolution on drowning prevention

Tuesday, 2 May 2017 16:46 GMT

A swimming instructor in Zanzibar teaches a child to swim, as part of RNLI International's Swim Safe programme

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

NEW YORK, 2nd May 2017: Ambassadors from around the world will call today for the first ever resolution on drowning prevention in the United Nation’s 70 year history.

The ambassadors from across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific will argue that without addressing the ‘silent epidemic’ of drowning – which kills some 360,000 people per year, the majority of them children - the UN’s goal of ending preventable under-five child mortality by 2030 can never be achieved.

The Global Forum on Drowning Prevention is taking place in New York, hosting high-level influencers from the diplomatic, development, public health and humanitarian sectors, including World Health Organisation Director General, Margaret Chan.

The forum is co-hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the world-leading lifesaving charity Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Stuart Popham, chairman of RNLI, said: “ In every region of the world, drowning is a top cause of child death. As with most epidemics, it affects the poorest and most vulnerable first and worst. Over 90% of deaths are in developing countries, and children make up the majority of lives lost.

“It is our shared responsibility to ensure that drowning prevention becomes part of the drive to reduce child mortality by 2030, as set out in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Popham added: “If the global community is serious about ‘getting to zero’ on under-five child deaths, it needs to be equally serious about drowning, positioning prevention as a priority - a forgotten, but fundamental Sustainable Development Goal enabler.”

The World Health Organisation estimates than 360,000 people die from drowning each year, and drowning is among the 10 global leading causes of death for children and young people. It is the leading cause of child death in Western Pacific Region and the number one killer of children from Bangladesh to Thailand.

Yet despite the magnitude of mortality and the inequity of deaths, drowning has never been the focus of the UN’s more than 25,000 resolutions.

Helen Morton, Head of International Advocacy for RNLI, said: “Drowning is not just an injury, it is an injustice, representing wasted lives and preventable deaths on an epidemic scale. Globally, the loss of life is equivalent to two thirds of malnutrition and half of malaria deaths. Drowning is a ‘silent epidemic’, unrecognised and under-resourced.

“It is time to recognise drowning for what it is – a leading, preventable cause of child mortality – and resource it accordingly.”

A new World Health Organisation report being launched at the event, Preventing Drowning: An Implementation Guide, will outline the severity of drowning as a global crisis.

The report will present a range of effective drowning prevention strategies, while recommending concrete measures to be taken by national and local governments.

Founded in the UK, the RNLI has been dedicated to preventing loss of life to the water for nearly 200 years.

Their international lifesaving programmes aim to drastically improve the chances of people surviving in and around water.

The charity works with partners at a global, national and local level, with projects in Tanzania, Bangladesh and Ghana, and partnerships across Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

More information about RNLI International can be found at https://rnli.org/what-we-do/international/how-we-are-helping