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BANGLADESH: Move to stem drowning deaths

Dhaka, 18 August 2010 (IRIN) - An estimated 18,000 children will die this year - 50 a day - in drowning accidents in Bangladesh, one of the most flood-prone parts of the world, according to the International Drowning Research Centre in Bangladesh (IDRC-B).

The goal of the centre, set up with Australian government funding, is to prevent drowning through research and advocacy about First Aid, and to share drowning prevention best practices with developing countries.

A parent body, the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research in Bangladesh (CIPRB), already provides local swimming classes.

The rivers that flow through Bangladesh represent the third largest fresh water discharge into the world's oceans, and the country boasts more than one million ponds, according to the government.

Drowning is the leading cause of death during Bangladesh’s flooding season from June to September, making it one of the top killers, according to CIPRB.

In 2007 drowning was responsible for 80 percent of deaths caused by flooding, according to Shumona Shafinaz, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) injury prevention specialist in Bangladesh.

“Children [in] Bangladesh and other developing countries are at high risk of dying from drowning but this issue is not properly addressed,” she told IRIN.

Fatalism is partly to blame, said AKM Fazlur Rahman, CIPRB’s executive director. “Many people believe that drowning is… inevitable and pre-decided by God’s will. The research centre will make people aware about the [ability to prevent] drowning deaths.”

The rate of children drowning in Bangladesh is at least 10 times higher than in higher income countries, especially for under fives, according to the 2003 Bangladesh Health and Injury Survey, the most recent available.

“To achieve the… Millennium Development Goal for reducing the child mortality rate, drowning has to be addressed,” said Fazlur Rahman.

Out of every 1,000 live births, 54 children did not make it to their fifth birthday in 2008, according to UNICEF.

Some 350,000 children die every year in Asia due to drowning, according to the NGO Royal Life Saving Society Australia, which helped set up the IDRC-B research centre.

According to the global umbrella association of rescue organizations, International Life Saving Federation, throughout the world 1.2 million people die by drowning annually, or more than two people every minute. Half of them are children under five.

mw/pt/cb

Theme (s): Children, Health & Nutrition, Natural Disasters, Water & Sanitation,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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