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372000 People Drown Every Year, WHO Reports

Update Date: Nov 18, 2014 09:34 AM EST

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that one of the top 10 leading causes of death in children and young adults is drowning. According to the United Nations (UN) agency, drowning kills 372,000 people annually throughout the world.

Overall, children under the age of five have the greatest risk of death. Young adults under 25-years-old made up more than 50 percent of the drowning cases. In 2012, 140,219 kids younger than 15 died from drowning whereas 69,648 children died from tuberculosis. The mortality rate for measles during that year was also lower than the rate of children who drowned.

"Efforts to reduce child mortality have brought remarkable gains in recent decades but they have also revealed otherwise hidden childhood killers. Drowning is one. This is a needless loss of life," WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan said, reported by BBC News. "Action must be taken by national and local governments to put in place the simple preventative measures articulated by the WHO."

The WHO also discovered that the majority of drowning cases, at over 90 percent, occurred in low- and middle-income nations, particularly those in African, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific area. However, the researchers noted that the drowning rates in developed nations might be underestimated. In terms of gender, males were two-times more likely to drown than females.

In order to prevent future cases of drowning, the report recommends governments to adopt more water-safety prevention methods. Schools and day care centers should include an education program that teaches children basic swimming, safe rescue skills and water safety. Bystanders should be trained in rescue and resuscitation. Communities could benefit from setting up barriers to better manage access to water. Nations should consider setting strict and safer boating, shipping and ferry regulations.

"Almost all water presents a drowning risk, particularly inside and around our homes," stated Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO Director for the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention reported in the news release. "Drowning occurs in bathtubs, buckets, ponds, rivers, ditches and pools, as people go about their daily lives. Losing hundreds of thousands of lives this way is unacceptable, given what we know about prevention."

The report, "Global report on drowning: preventing a leading killer," can be found here.

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