In South Africa, children drown on a daily basis, with most drownings (and near-drownings) occurring in children under the age of 14 and as a result of both recreational and non-recreational activities.
Data collated by the Medical Research Council lists drowning as one of the highest causes of accidental deaths in children under five years old.
Drowning is also one of the most common causes of unnatural childhood death in SA. It takes only four minutes for irreversible brain damage to occur without oxygen.
As today is World Water Safety Day, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is placing a focus on preventing drownings in children under five, who are the most vulnerable.
“The places that toddlers face the greatest danger from water is in, and near to, their home,” the NSRI says. “Parents and caregivers – please make sure that any stored water in or close to your home is child-safe. Buckets, tanks and basins should be securely closed or inaccessible to children.”
The World Health Organisation suggests four interventions that will protect children from drowning:
– Installing barriers that control access to water
– Providing safe places away from water for pre-school children, with capable child care
– Teaching school-age children water safety and swimming skills and train bystanders in safe rescue and resuscitation.
“Children can drown in only a few centimetres of water. Please make sure that your home is water safe,” the NSRI cautions.