Sunday, 14 August, 2022

World Drowning Prevention Day Today

Children continue to be victims of epidemic

Children continue to be victims of epidemic

Jhalakathi’s businessman Habibur Rahman and his wife Ayesha Rahman became parents of twin babies seven and a half years after their marriage in 2011.

Two newborn girls — Nur Afsa and Nur Jannat — filled their house with laughter and joy. But, their happiness didn’t last long.

On a fine morning last month when Ayesha was busy in the kitchen and Habibur went to toilet only for a few minutes asking the girls not to move from the verandah, two restless angels walked straight to the nearby pond and drowned!

Habibur and Ayesha searched each and every corner of their house but couldn’t locate them. Their dead bodies were found 30-35 minutes later when a net was thrown into the pond. Since then all the happiness of Habibur and Ayesha’s lives has disappeared.

Such stories are very familiar in Bangladesh as according to a study conducted by Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), in association with Society for Media and Suitable Human Communication Techniques (SoMaSHTe), some 2,805 people have died from drowning in the country in the last two and a half years.

Of them, 2,393 were children or aged less than 18 years. It means over 85 percent of the drowning victims were children.

The study says at least 582 people died from drowning in the first six months of 2022 and among them 528 were children. So, over 90 percent of the drowning victims were children during this period.

According to the study, some 68 people have died from drowning in the first 17 days of July this year and among them 63 are children.

Bangladesh Health and Injury Survey observed that drowning is the single largest killer of children in the country while the World Health Organization (WHO) thinks that the number of children die from drowning in Bangladesh is the highest in the world considering the percentage of total population!

Statistics show that most of the drowning incidents occur within 50 metres of the home.

Countless small ponds are dug in Bangladesh’s village areas. Usually lands of most of the houses are prepared by the soil collected from the ponds located in front of them and 80 percent of the drowning incidents take place in ponds.

Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB) observed children of Barishal are most vulnerable to be the victims of drowning as according to the statistics of the last couple of years 67 percent children victims of drowning lived in 24 upazilas of this division and 63 percent of these incidents occurred from 9:00am to 1:00pm.

Children also die in large numbers every year in the flood affected areas of northern region making the areas with the highest number of water-bodies and the areas which are flood-prone more vulnerable for children.

Maximum children drown when their parents and guardians remain busy with their works as most of the families of the victims belong to a low-income group.

Their parents neither have the opportunity to look after their children instead of joining their workplaces nor can they keep someone in their house for taking care of their children.

Recently, a Bloomberg Philanthropies funded research programme, carried out together by Johns Hopkins University, CIPRB and icddr,b, has proven that community daycares can reduce drowning deaths of children in the country by up to 70 percent.

The good thing is that the government has realised the severity of the situation and is taking initiative to reduce child drowning across the country.

The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has taken a project spending Tk 271.82 lakh which has been approved recently by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC).

Under the project, some 8,000 daycare centres will be established in 45 upazilas in 16 districts where 16,000 rural women will be employed. In these centres, children aged between 2 to 5 years will be taken care during day time and children aged between 6 to 10 years will be trained how to swim.

The government has already passed the Daycare Act 2021 to widen the scope of private sector investment and ensure that poor families can afford this facility.

The Ministry of Education in 2015 issued a circular asking all the educational institutions to train their students how to swim, but the direction is yet to be implemented.

Some of the NGOs are working on it by establishing a number of children safety centre and providing swimming training.

Shabnaaz Zahereen, Child Protection Specialist of UNICEF, Bangladesh, said, “Guardians have to keep their children inside a fence and survival swimming training must be provided to all children aged more than five years.”

“Community members should be trained and equipped so that they can respond to emergency situations.”

“And there is no alternative to developing mass awareness to reduce the rate of such unfortunate deaths,” she added.