ILS Welcomes the release of the WHO Global Report on Drowning

The World Health Organisation’s first Global Report on Drowning: preventing a leading killer represents a major step forward in the global fight to reduce drowning.

Launched in Geneva (Tuesday 18th November 2014) by WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan, the Report reveals that drowning claims the lives of 372,000 people each year and is among the ten leading causes of death for children and young people in every region.

The Report highlights:

  • Every hour, every day, more than 40 people lose their lives to drowning.
  • 372,000 people drown each year, with those under 5 years at greatest risk.
  • Globally, over half of all drowning deaths are among those aged under 25 years.
  • The highest rates for drowning are among children under five years of age.
  • Males are two times more likely to drown than females.
  • More than 90% of drowning occurs in low- and middle-income countries, with the highest rates in the African, South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions

ILS supports calls by World Health Organisation for a substantial scaling-up of efforts and resources to prevent drowning. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan stated “Efforts to reduce child mortality have brought remarkable gains in recent decades, but they have also revealed otherwise hidden childhood killers. Drowning is one. This is a needless loss of life. Action must be taken by national and local governments to put in place the simple preventive measures articulated by WHO.”

ILS President Graham Ford stated that “ILS, as the world authority for drowning prevention, lifesaving and lifesaving sport highly welcomes the WHO Global Report on Drowning, and is committed to supporting WHO, UN Agencies, Donors, NGOs and the many nations of the world where drowning is a leading cause of mortality, particularly in children.”

ILS acknowledges the contribution of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which made the Report possible. In launching the Report, Michael R Bloomberg, three term Mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies stated “I believe that you can’t manage what you don’t measure – and there’s never been a comprehensive effort to measure drowning around the world until now. The more evidence we can gather, the better we’ll be able to tailor our prevention efforts – and the Global report on drowning is a big step in the right direction.” Drowning data remains a critical issue

WHO calls for a global partnership to reduce drowning to serve as a policy and implementation leadership community for the issue of drowning prevention The “Partnership”, would involve UN agencies including WHO, IMO, UNICEF and UNISDR; international federations such as ILS; key development assistance agencies; key NGOs and academic institutions.

The establishment of a global partnership to prevent drowning was advanced as the central theme of ILS World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2011, where participants drafted a declaration titled Building a Global Platform to Reduce Drowning and was again endorsed in Potsdam, Germany in 2013. ILS welcomes this concept.

The Report’s key recommendations include installing barriers to control access to water; providing safe places such as day care centres for children; teaching children basic swimming skills and training bystanders in safe rescue and resuscitation.

In years ILS has published a number of policy statements that support the implementation of basic swimming skills, safe rescue and resuscitation.

Dr Etienne Krug, WHO Director for the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention stated “Almost all water presents a drowning risk, particularly inside and around our homes. Drowning occurs in bathtubs, buckets, ponds, rivers, ditches and pools, as people go about their daily lives. Losing hundreds of thousands of lives this way is unacceptable, given what we know about prevention.”

Drowning prevention researchers, policy makers and practitioners will be embracing of much of the content of the Report, which highlights research which was emerging at the ILS World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Vietnam in 2011, and has subsequently been highlighted in the Report.

The Report describes drowning prevention projects in a number of low- and middle-income countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. The report recommends that such efforts should be systematically implemented and monitored in order to identify best practices and bring those which are most successful to scale.

ILS will conduct the next World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Penang, Malaysia 4-6 November 2015. This conference will focus on building partnerships at community, national, regional and global levels.

ILS recognizes all those who contributed to the production of the Global Report on Drowning, through the editorial and advisory committees. Specifically, we congratulate Dr David Meddings (Executive Editor) on achieving such as substantial Report.

Members of the editorial and advisory committee include:

Editorial committee

Dr. David Meddings MD, Dr. Adnan A. Hyder MD, Dr. Joan Ozanne-Smith, Dr. Aminur Rahman MD.

Advisory committee

Dr. Stephen Beerman MD (ILS Past President), Prof. Dr. Joost Bierens PhD & MD (ILS Medical Committee), Lauren S Blum, Anuradha Bose, Christine M. Branche, Ruth Brenner, Alfredo Celis, Richard C. Franklin, Jonathan P. Guevarra, Olive Kobusingye, Michael Linnan, Kevin Moran, Dr. Linda Quan MD (ILS Medical Committee), AKM Fazlur Rahman, Frederick Rivara, Justin Scarr (ILS Drowning Prevention Committee), Gordon S Smith.

The Global report on drowning: preventing a leading killer and related materials may be found here: