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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a factsheet about drowning, which highlights that it is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.

It was estimated that, in 2019, an estimated 236,000 people died from drowning, making drowning a major public health problem worldwide. Despite limited data, several studies reveal information on the cost impact of drowning. In the United States of America, 45% of drowning deaths are among the most economically active segment of the population. Coastal drowning in the United States alone accounts for US$ 273 million each year in direct and indirect costs. In Australia and Canada, the total annual cost of drowning injury is US$85.5 million and US$173 million respectively.

Risk factors, explored in the factsheet, are:

  • Age.

  • Gender.

  • Access to water.

  • Flood disasters.

  • Travelling on water.

  • Other factors, such as: lower socioeconomic status; unsupervised infants; alcohol use in or around water; medical conditions; unfamiliarity with local water risks.

Actions in order to prevent drowning are set out. These include the installation of barriers to control access to water hazards or removing water hazards entirely greatly reduces water hazard exposure and risk.

Effective policies and legislation are also important for drowning prevention. Setting and enforcing safe boating, shipping and ferry regulations is an important part of improving safety on the water and preventing drowning. Building resilience to flooding and managing flood risks through better disaster preparedness planning, land use planning, and early warning systems can prevent drowning during flood disasters.

The factsheet also sets out WHO's response to the issue. It is available in full for STN Subscribers here.

WHO April 2021


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