The World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board has adopted decision EB152/CONF./2 “Accelerating Action on Global Drowning Prevention” which recommends to the Seventy-Sixth World Health Assembly the adoption of a resolution to address the global drowning burden. The decision for the resolution was put forward under the leadership of the Governments of Bangladesh and Ireland and was co-sponsored by 75 Member States. The resolution requests continued leadership and support from the WHO to advance multisectoral global drowning prevention action between 2023 and 2029. An estimated 236 000 people die from drowning each year, constituting 7% of all injury-related deaths, and making drowning a major public health problem worldwide.
The resolution requests Member States to assess their national drowning situation and to develop and implement multisectoral drowning prevention programming. The resolution also requests Member States to ensure policy planning across the wide range of sectors that influence drowning risk is carried out in a manner so as to reduce drowning risks. Member States are also asked to promote drowning prevention through community engagement, and to promote capacity building and international cooperation for drowning prevention.
The resolution requests WHO to establish a Global Alliance for Drowning Prevention with organizations of the United Nations system, international development partners and nongovernmental organizations. This directly responds to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 75/273 (2021) on global drowning prevention, which invites WHO to coordinate action on drowning prevention within the United Nations system and among relevant United Nations entities. The Alliance will develop a Global Drowning Prevention Strategy to guide its operation and strengthen coordination and collaboration among partners.
To better understand the true burden and impact of drowning, the resolution further requests WHO to prepare a global status report on drowning prevention. All 194 WHO Member States will be invited to participate in this assessment which will provide critical information for policy-makers and programme implementors to guide the feasible, low-cost, effective and scalable drowning prevention interventions that WHO recommends and has provided detailed practical guidance for.
The resolution highlights the strong relationship between drowning and the social determinants of health, with rates for drowning being highest among the most socioeconomically disadvantaged and vulnerable members of society. This is the case both within and between countries of all levels of economic development.
“Drowning has the greatest impact among the world’s poorest people,” notes Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health. “Rising poverty and vulnerabilities are exacerbating inequalities in drowning risk. At WHO, we will continue to work across sectors and with various partners to prevent drowning and save lives.”
Over the past decade, significant momentum has been generated at the global level on drowning prevention. WHO has played a critical role in this movement, developing a comprehensive suite of technical products, hosting capacity development trainings and workshops, and supporting national-level drowning prevention activities in countries including Bangladesh, Philippines, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Viet Nam. This momentum will continue to be amplified through adoption of the WHA resolution in the areas of strengthened partnerships, improved evidence and increased attention to this neglected public health issue.