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Community awareness key to reducing childhood drowning

Vietnam needs to integrate drowning prevention and climate change management programmes, Dang Hoa Nam, director of the Child Affairs Department under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) has said.

MoLISA statistics show that in the first five months of this year, 138 were reported to have drowned, however the actual number may be even higher.

Drowning is the leading cause of childhood deaths in Vietnam. It is estimated that about 2,000 children still die from drowning each year.

Representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to Vietnam Kidong Park has said progress is being made although more needs to be done.

"This issue," he says "has not yet received adequate attention from the society".

Nam agrees, saying that in Vietnam, community awareness around water safety is still limited. Many children have also not been provided with the knowledge or safety skills needed around water. Increasing people's knowledge and skills was the most important measure.

“When equipped with safety knowledge and skills around water, children become more aware of the dangers and know how to handle situations that can cause drowning,” he said.

Many parents have sent their children to swimming lessons in the summer. But, Nam said, the awareness of a lot of people is still behind where it needs to ensure water safety, in particular the need to supervise children around water.

Authorities at all levels should also directly conduct surveys of the local water hazards. They should set up a system of signs and barriers, and assign people to guard high-risk areas like pools and swimming holes.

“Knowledge and skills to prevent drowning are like ‘a vaccine’ that helps Vietnam control and reduce drowning, including deaths from drowning, especially in children,” said Nam.

Nguyen Thi Ha, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs said that over the past few years, Vietnam has built a legal framework system around childhood drowning prevention and control.

Many national programmes have also been issued to implement various measures to reduce drowning among children. Most recently, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh issued Decision No 1248/QD-TTg approving a programme on preventing childhood accidents and injuries in the 2021-30 period. The programme aims to reduce by 20 percent the number of children dying from drowning, and have 70 percent of children know water safety skills and 60 percent of children know how to swim safely by 2030.

Nam said that it was necessary to raise awareness at all levels, in particular managers, and have reasonable investment and budget allocation for childhood injury prevention and control in general and children drowning in particular.

The Department of Child Affairs estimated the total cost for a child to be equipped with the minimum skills necessary to ensure safety in the water at about 700,000 VND (30 USD).

This cost was not too much for the provincial budget, Nam said.

In addition, it is necessary to call for contributions from society to conduct universal swimming lessons, and popularise water safety skills.

During the pandemic children have been allowed to start their summer vacation early. Many parents think that when children are at home, they will be safe. However, if the living environment is not safe children are still prone to accidents, injuries and especially drowning - the most common cause of death in the summer.

Improving skills for children and their caregivers is one of the core issues that needs to be addressed to control and reduce drowning.

“Attention and supervision from parents, targeted and responsible actions from authorities and communities at all levels will create a strong impetus to eliminate children drowning,” said Ha./.