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Over 236,000 die annually from drowning worldwide: WHO

UNITED NATIONS: More than 236,000 people die each year from drowning – among the leading causes of death for those aged one to 24 years, and the third leading cause of injury deaths worldwide overall, the World Health Organization (WHO), a Geneva-based UN agency, said on Monday, urging everyone to “do one thing” to save lives, including by organizing water safety events.

The appeal on the World Drowning Prevention Day outlines actions that individuals, groups and governments can take, and highlights initiatives already underway in some countries.

The majority of drowning deaths, more than 90 per cent, occur in low- and middle-income nations, with children under five at greatest risk.

These deaths are frequently linked to daily routine activities, such as bathing, collecting water for household use, traveling on boats or ferries, and fishing. The impacts of monsoons and other seasonal or extreme weather events are also a frequent cause.

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

To commemorate the World Drowning Prevention Day, cities across the world are lighting up some of their prominent landmarks in blue.

WHO has its headquarters in Geneva, and the Jet d’Eau in Lake Geneva – one of the most famous attractions in the Swiss city – would be illuminated in blue on Monday evening.

The UN’s health agency works with partners, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in the United Kingdom, and the Global Health Advocacy Incubator, to raise awareness on drowning prevention.

The founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, described drowning as a global public health challenge.

“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,” Bloomberg, the WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, said.

WHO has recommended six evidence-based measures to prevent drowning, which include installing barriers controlling access to water, and training bystanders in safe rescue and resuscitation techniques.

School-aged children also should be taught basic swimming and water safety skills, while boys and girls should be provided supervised daycare.

Other measures call for setting and enforcing safe boating practices, shipping and ferry regulations, and improving flood risk management.

As part of the call to “do one thing”, individuals are urged to share drowning prevention and water safety advice with their families, friends and colleagues. They are also encouraged to sign up for swimming or water safety lessons, or to support local charities or organizations working on drowning prevention.

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