Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on people around the world to ‘do one thing’ to prevent drowning. As one of the leading causes of death worldwide for children and young people aged 1-24, and the third leading cause of injury-related death overall, drowning tragically kills more than 236,000 dead every year. To galvanize action and mark World Drowning Prevention Day, Geneva’s Jet d’eau will light up blue tonight, along with similar actions in other cities around the world.

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More than 90% of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with children under 5 being most at risk. These deaths are often related to daily and routine activities, such as bathing, collecting water for domestic use, traveling on water in boats or ferries, and fishing. The impacts of seasonal or extreme weather events – including monsoons – are also a common cause of drowning and these impacts are largely preventable with a number of interventions.

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of people drown around the world. Most of these deaths can be prevented with evidence-based, low-cost solutions,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Today, cities around the world are illuminating their landmarks with blue light as a call to action for each of us to do our part to prevent drowning. Let’s stop drowning.

“Drowning is a global public health challenge, and at Bloomberg Philanthropies, we are focused on implementing solutions to prevent it. Today, we join our partners around the world in recognizing World Drowning Prevention Day and taking action,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for non-communicable diseases and injuries. “In many cases we know what works to prevent drowning. We’ve developed tools and guidance to help governments implement solutions – and if we do more together, we really can save thousands of lives.

The WHO recommends 6 evidence-based measures to prevent drowning, including the installation of barriers controlling access to water; train bystanders in safe rescue and resuscitation; teaching school-age children basic swimming and water safety skills; providing supervised day care for children; establishing and enforcing boating, navigation and ferry safety regulations; and improving flood risk management.

This year’s theme for World Drowning Prevention Day invites the global community to “do one thing” to prevent drowning. Here are examples of actions that can be taken:

  • People can share drowning prevention and water safety tips with family, friends and co-workers, sign up for swimming or water safety lessons, or support local charities and drowning prevention groups .
  • Groups may host public events to share water safety information, initiate water safety campaigns, or commit to developing or implementing new drowning prevention programs using recommended best intervention practices.
  • Governments may develop or announce new drowning prevention policies, strategies, laws or investments, convene multi-sector roundtables or parliamentary discussions on the burden of drowning and solutions, and introduce or commit to supporting programs drowning prevention nationally or internationally.

Many countries around the world are engaged in drowning prevention programs. Bangladesh has launched a 3-year program to reduce child drownings across the country. Under the program, the government will take over the 2,500 child care centers established and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies since 2012, and expand the program by adding an additional 5,500 child care centers to provide care for 200,000 children aged 1 to 5.

Notes to editors:

WHO is working with partners such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the Global Health Advocacy Incubator as well as other UN agencies to raise awareness about drowning prevention.

Together we support Member States to design and implement drowning prevention initiatives based on published guidance documents. With support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bangladesh and Vietnam have identified and scaled up cost-effective approaches to child drowning prevention, while Uganda and Ghana are receiving support to study the circumstances of drowning.

The WHO has published a growing library of drowning prevention assessments and guidance documents. The 2014 Downing World Report: Preventing a top killer. In May 2022, WHO published its latest guidance on good practice recommendations for three of these interventions: the provision of daycare for children, basic swimming and water safety skills, and training in safe rescue and resuscitation.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies Drowning Prevention Initiative supports drowning prevention activities in Bangladesh, Uganda and Viet Nam, including supervision of young children in daycare, survival swimming lessons for children aged 6 at 15 and improved data collection.

In 2021, the first United Nations General Assembly resolution was passed on drowning prevention. The resolution calls on WHO to coordinate drowning prevention actions within the United Nations system and to lead preparations for World Drowning Prevention Day.

Global Virtual Webinar:

To mark World Drowning Prevention Day 2022, WHO and international partners will host a global virtual webinar on July 27 (12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. CEST), to discuss approaches to working across the United Nations system to prevent drowning and present the “single partners around the world committed to preventing drowning in their communities. https://who.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0ldeiorzMpG9EQR-6AlBABlSQKCWQhUZ9w