On average, every hour of every day more than 40 people drown around the world. That’s 372,000 fatalities annually. Drownings are one of the top 10 killers of kids and young adults, with the highest rate of drowning deaths among children under five years of age.
So finds the World Health Organization’s first global report on drowning, which they call a “neglected public health issue.”
The just–published analysis represents the first global snapshot of a problem which especially hits low- and middle-income nations. Drownings have become more rare in the U.S. in recent years, but the latest figures from the CDC indicate that even in the states some 3,800 people die by unintentional drowning each year.
The WHO analysis finds that globally males are twice as likely to die by drowning compared to females. Likely reasons include riskier behavior like swimming alone or drinking alcohol before engaging in water activities.
The report notes that local communities can take steps to help avert drowning deaths. WHO recommends installing barriers around water and teaching swimming, proper water safety and rescue techniques. At a national level, improved boating regulations, water safety policies and flood risk management would also help more people make it home safely.
—Dina Fine Maron