The World Conference on Drowning Prevention opened on Tuesday in Durban, South Africa with a call for action to scale up drowning prevention measures.
World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks drowning, which claims at least 322 000 lives annually, as the third leading cause of unintentional injury and death worldwide and the second leading killer of children under 15 years old after meningitis in the world.
Making a presentation during the opening of the conference, experts described drowning as a neglected public health problem.
WHO scientist Dr. David Meddings said there is need for governments to put in place drowning prevention programmes to reverse the trend.
“Drowning is the principal cause of death in flood disasters,” he said.
A WHO 2014 Global Report on Drowning shows that despite 91 percent of the cases of drowning occurring in low and medium income countries, most of the data from African countries did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the document.
The report, therefore, extrapolated the available data to arrive at the estimates. On her part, Uganda’s Makerere University School of Public Health senior research fellow Dr. Olive Kobusingye called on countries to provide data on drowning to help in prevention planning.
She said: “While it is a huge problem globally and in Africa, we have not been provided with information to help us act. We need real data not extrapolations. We need to know where the problem is.”
Malawi is endowed with several water bodies, including Lake Malawi which is ranked the world’s third largest fresh water lake.
This increases the risk of drowning among people who live, work and go to the water bodies for recreation.
Early his year, 56 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Desmond and Cyclone Idai that hit some parts of the country.
WHO estimates that drowning accounts for 75 percent of deaths during flood disasters.