Drowning and the UN Millennium Development Goals

In New York this week (20-22 September 2010), world leaders including nearly 140 heads of state, United Nations (UN) agencies and large scale donors, will meet at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit to review progress and determine strategies as the 2015 deadline nears.

The eight MDG’s ” which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 ” form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest.

Whilst UN Agencies, major donor Governments such as the United States, the European Union and Japan, and those low and middle income countries wrestling with the MDG targets make official statements and pledge extended commitments, issue based advocates jockey to ensure that their perspectives are heard and considered on this world stage.

As Drowning Prevention advocates we eagerly search reports and media releases for mention of the silent epidemic of child drowning which has only recently been identified in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand. Drowning most impacts on MDG 4 Reduce Child Mortality, and whilst much of the emphasis is currently directed towards malnutrition, access to adequate primary health care, infrastructure such as water and sanitation, and prevention of diseases such as HIV and Malaria, the International Life Saving Federation (ILS) believe that a more concerted effort to reduce drowning in children aged 1-4 is urgently needed.

Bangladesh has long been a focus of child survival efforts by the international development community, and significant resources have been applied to achieving MDG targets since the year 2000. Reports from ILS Members – The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC) and the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research ” Bangladesh (CIPRB) make the case that without addressing Child Drowning, Bangladesh will likely fall short of its MDG 4 target for reducing child mortality. Interventions being tested by the International Drowning Research Centre at CIPRB show that drowning in children under four can be dramatically reduced.

There will be many implications and lessons for the International Life Saving Federation and drowning prevention advocates arising from the UN MDG Summit in New York, and the remaining years until 2015. Some will come in the form of lessons about how to organise ourselves to advocate our cause more effectively, others will take the form of MDG Country Programs that now realise that drowning is no longer hidden and can be prevented by relatively simple means integrated into a holistic child survival program.

ILS members can take some practical steps this week. These include:

  • Check your own country’s aid program statement to the UN MDG Summit
  • Search the MDG reports from any of the countries in which you work to establish the wider development themes

More information on the UN MDG Summit can be found at http://www.un.org/en/mdg/summit2010/