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United Nations passes first ever Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention

United Nations passes first ever Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention
April 30, 2021

The United Nations has this week passed its first ever Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.

Brought to the United Nations by Ireland and Bangladesh, and co-sponsored by 79 countries including Australia, the Resolution has been warmly welcomed by the Royal Life Saving Society - Australia, and the hundreds of thousands of people who work or volunteer as lifeguards, lifesavers, and swimming instructors in communities across Australia. We thank the Australian Government for its support.

The Resolution recognised the seriousness of drowning as a public health issue especially in low- and middle-income countries.

The Resolution is inspirational in setting an agenda for countries, UN agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, and bodies like Royal Life Saving to work together to address drowning as an under-recognised public health threat.

The Resolution:

• Is in response to deep concern that drowning has been the cause of over 2.5 million preventable deaths in the past decade but has been largely under-recognised relative to its impact.
• Notes that more than 90% of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with Asia carrying the highest burden of drowning deaths by number.
• Notes that drowning disproportionately affects children and adolescents in rural areas, with many countries reporting drowning as the leading cause of childhood mortality.
• Clarifies that the official global estimate of 235,000 deaths per annum excludes drownings attributable to flood-related climatic events and water transport incidents, resulting in drowning deaths being underestimated by up to 50% in some countries.
• Declares that the 25th July every year will be World Drowning Prevention Day and calls on all nations to develop drowning prevention plans.

Royal Life Saving Society - Australia Chief Executive, Justin Scarr feels Australia is well placed to achieve all (and more) of the voluntary actions that the Resolution encourages Members States to adopt.

• Australia has well-developed national peak bodies for lifesaving and drowning prevention.
• The resolution aligns almost perfectly to the Australian Water Safety Strategy 2030 which was launched in Canberra in March.
• All the key WHO recommended interventions are well-addressed across Australia.
• Australia’s academic institutions and their approaches to global themes in drowning research are world leading, including teams at The George Institute for Global Health, the School of Population Health, UNSW, and James Cook University.

Scarr feels that Australia is also well-placed to support international cooperation by sharing lessons learned, and best practices, within and among regions. In fact, our leadership has already contributed through partnerships with the WHO, International Life Saving Federation, and in Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.

With UK charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RLNI) acknowledged for having provided tireless support to the process, Royal Life Saving congratulates the RNLI and their teams for their tremendous effort in achieving this milestone.

Click here to view the United Nations Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention (A/75/L.76) in the six UN languages.

Images: Water safety education in Bangladesh. Credit: Royal Life Saving Society - Australia/Justin Scarr.

Related Articles

9th April 2021 - United Nations Secretary-General highlights power of sport for an inclusive and sustainable future

9th April 2021 - Australian Water Safety Council seeks local government backing to help reduce drownings

25th March 2021 - New Water Safety Strategy sets out plan to significantly cut Australia’s drowning rate

15th March 2021 - Increase in summer drownings prompts plea from Surf Life Saving Australia

25th January 2021 - Surf Life Saving Australia warns drowning deaths more likely on public holidays

23rd November 2020 - Royal Life Saving’s latest Keep Watch campaign highlights tragic drowning toll among children aged under 12 months

30th September 2020 - CQU researcher seeks input with study into drowning prevention strategies

21st September 2020 - Water Safety New Zealand invests $2.5 million in drowning prevention initiatives

12th June 2020 - World Health Organization advises people to wear masks in public areas

22nd March 2020 - United Nations warn that poor water infrastructure is greater risk than Coronavirus

19th March 2020 - Drownings fall across Australian summer of extremes

5th December 2019 - AUSTSWIM receives funding boost to combat multicultural drownings

13th March 2019 - Drowning detection system to be rolled out at Singapore’s 11 public pools

4th June 2018 - World Health Organization launches Global Action Plan on Physical Activity

17th December 2017 - Complacency surrounding Asian drowning epidemic also impacts Australia

31st October 2015 - World Health Organization backs 2015 World Conference on Drowning Prevention

24th December 2014 - UN report shows drowning claims over 40 people every hour in ‘needless loss of life’

22nd September 2014 - Sri Lankan life saving report release to coincide with Boxing Day Tsunami anniversary

1st July 2014 - Malaysia to host World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2015

29th October 2011 - Asian floods expose child drowning ‘epidemic’


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