THE death of more 12,000 children aged below five by drowning in Bangladesh every year is worrying. A study, made public on Thursday, shows that about 32 children aged below five years die by drowning daily. The number would be higher if death by drowning of children aged above five is taken into account. While drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children aged 1–17, children aged below five are the most vulnerable group. The study, conducted by the International Centre for Diarrheal Diseases Research, Bangladesh, the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh and the Johns Hopkins University, also shows that Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of drowning fatality and that the country lacks the required infrastructure and awareness campaigns to help reduce the number of such death that is largely preventable. The study also shows that death by drowning is higher in rural areas where there are relatively a high number of water sources compared with urban areas. Most child drowning deaths are reported to take place in small water bodies within 20 metres of the home and particularly when the adult remain busy and children go unsupervised.
Water is a common feature of Bangladesh landscape with ponds, ditches and other water bodies in both rural and urban areas. The water bodies are usually used by people for diverse purposes such as bathing, washing, agriculture and fish farming while children also play in them. What comes with worry is that while a high incidence of child drowning deaths has been reported for some years now, the government, society and families have given little attention to the issue. Researchers have repeatedly linked drowning deaths among children with a lack of awareness and supervision, a high exposure to water hazards and a little or wrong first aid knowledge. Playpens and day-care centres can significantly reduce the number of death by drowning for children aged below five and swimming training can reduce the number among children aged above five. Programmes such as safety and first aid education, community education in injury prevention and the establishment of village injury prevention committees are said to be highly effective in preventing drowning injury and death. What is also necessary is social autopsy on drowning injury and death to take effective initiatives.
The government and non-governmental organisations must, therefore, work out plans and take programmes to make families and communities aware to prevent deaths by drowning. They must also engage communities in measures such as arranging for playpens and day-care facilities to reduce drowning incidents among children aged below five. The government should also include swimming training in schooling to help students.
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