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Drowning: the hidden childhood killer

What claims more than 300,000 children's lives each year - more than tuberculosis or measles?

Drowning: the hidden childhood killer

Its a hidden childhood killer that lead to more deaths among under-15s than tuberculosis or measles in 2012.

A recent global survey found it is responsible for the needless loss of more than 372,000 lives every year, with infants under five the most at risk.

Drowning is one of the top 10 leading causes of death for children and young people worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO believes that more needs to be done to tackle this preventable loss of life.

The first of its kind investigation of deaths by drowning revealed that the majority take place in low and middle income countries.

The highest rates of drowning were observed in African, Western Pacific and South-East Asian regions.

Those under 25 account for more than half of all recorded deaths by drowning each year.

But experts warn that the rates in high income countries may be underestimated, as official data fails to account for drowning from floods or natural disasters and suicides.

According to the report, drowning led to 140,219 deaths in under-15s in 2012, twice the number caused by tuberculosis (69,648).

“Efforts to reduce child mortality have brought remarkable gains in recent decades but they have also revealed otherwise hidden childhood killers,” said WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan

“Drowning is one. This is a needless loss of life.”

“Action must be taken by national and local governments to put in place the simple preventative measures articulated by the WHO.”

The research suggests that more could be done to prevent drowning, including:

  • Teaching school-age children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills
  • Training bystanders in rescue and resuscitation
  • Setting boating, shipping and ferry regulations

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also the founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which provided funding for the study said: “I believe that you can’t manage what you don’t measure and there’s never been a comprehensive effort to measure drowning around the world until now.

“The more evidence we can gather, the better we’ll be able to tailor our prevention efforts,” he said.

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