The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) welcomes the report for putting the issue firmly on the global health agenda, and wholeheartedly supports its recommendations for improved data, national water safety strategies, tailored programmes and global partnerships.
The WHO estimates 372,000 lives are lost each year to drowning. That’s more than 1,000 people every day, or 40 every hour. More than 90% of these losses happen in low- and middle-income countries. The WHO estimates use the best data available but, with drowning deaths going unreported in many countries, the picture is incomplete, and the actual number of deaths is likely to be much higher. To understand the true scale of the issue, more information is needed and better recording of data is vital.
Despite its epidemic proportions, and even though it’s a major blocker to some countries reducing child mortality, drowning has never been a priority issue on the international agenda. The charity welcomes this important report from the WHO for bringing attention to this issue, which has gone largely unnoticed for so long, and for calling to action those who are in a position to do something about it.
The tragedy of the situation is that drowning is largely preventable and, what’s more, the solutions are relatively simple and inexpensive. We believe that, as a minimum standard, every nation (the UK and Ireland included) should have a national drowning prevention strategy, underpinned by a range of practical, effective programmes and interventions.
However, because of the scale of the problem, this isn’t something that we can do on our own and global partnerships need to be established to tackle it. Active discussions are already taking place between the RNLI and other organisations to consider forming a coalition, with members committed to making drowning prevention a global priority and creating a plan for concerted and united action. Organisations included in those discussions, and which are in support of the above statement, are:
• Plan UK
• The International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF)
• The International Life Saving Federation (ILS)
• Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) Australia
• Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) Commonwealth
• Safe Kids Worldwide
• Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB)
• Lifesaving Society Canada.
In the UK and Ireland, the RNLI is known for preventing drowning through maritime search and rescue and coastal safety education. Over the past few years, as the scale of the global drowning problem has become clearer, we have also begun international work; looking at how we can support communities and organisations overseas. Our aim is simply to help others to help themselves by giving them the skills and knowledge to deliver vital water safety messages in their communities or to set up and run their own lifesaving services.
James Vaughan, the RNLI’s International Director, says it’s time for change:
‘The WHO report signals it’s time for action – global drowning can no longer be ignored. The RNLI has been developing drowning prevention programmes overseas for the past few years. We want to continue and grow this work but, to make a serious difference to this epidemic problem, collaboration is absolutely vital. It is our intention to fully support the formation of an international coalition – one which will spearhead the action, ensure better data is gathered, guide national water safety strategies, and help create and implement tailored programmes. Collectively, we can make an impact and save lives.’
For more information on the RNLI’s international development work see www.rnli.org/international.
Notes to Editors
• The WHO’s Global report on drowning: preventing a leading killer and related materials can be found here: www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/global_report_drowning/en/. [Under password protection – contact WHO communications for access].
• RNLI spokespeople are available for interview or comment.
• Images from recent RNLI international development programmes are attached. Please credit RNLI.
RNLI media contacts
For more information, contact Laura Fennimore in RNLI Public Relations on 01202 663181 / Laura_Fennimore@rnli.org.uk or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 / email@example.com.