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The George Institute welcomes historic United Nations Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention

On 28th April 2021, the United Nations adopted a historic Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention, calling on countries around the world to recognise and take action to prevent hundreds of thousands of drowning deaths each year.

The Resolution was proposed by the Governments of Bangladesh and Ireland, and co-sponsored by 79 countries, including those of Australia and India. The George Institute for Global Health warmly welcomes the Resolution as a significant milestone that builds on many years of action to make drowning prevention a priority. The George Institute’s teams in Australia and India congratulate their governments for their support.

Dr Jagnoor Jagnoor, who leads The George Institute’s drowning prevention research, said:

“The importance of this Resolution lies in the far-reaching commitment of countries individually – and together – to share knowledge, experiences and best practices for reducing drowning deaths. It creates awareness of drowning as a forgotten and avoidable epidemic, and demonstrates how drowning prevention can enable progress on climate resilience, health equity and the Sustainable Development Goals."

There have been 2.5 million preventable deaths due to drowning during the past decade; more than 90% of them in low- and middle-income countries. Children and adolescents in rural areas are disproportionately affected, with many countries reporting drowning as the leading cause of childhood mortality.

The Resolution encourages countries to develop national drowning prevention plans and programming, in line with interventions recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), and to ensure enactment and enforcement of water safety laws. Other actions include the promotion of public awareness and behaviour change campaigns; research and development of innovative drowning prevention tools and technology; and capacity-building through international cooperation.

To raise awareness of the importance of drowning prevention and the need for urgent, multi-sectoral action to improve water safety and reduce preventable deaths, the Resolution proclaims 25 July as UN World Drowning Prevention Day, to be marked annually.

The George Institute congratulates the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) for its role in bringing this resolution to fruition, and in supporting research into drowning in Asia and Africa. We also acknowledge the role of our collaborators and partners - the Child In Need Institute, India, the Hanoi School of Public Health, Vietnam, and the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh - for their contribution in generating robust evidence to inform drowning prevention strategies.

Emma Feeny, Director of Global Advocacy and Policy Engagement at The George Institute, said:

“This Resolution is the result of the unwavering commitment of the drowning prevention community, including advocates, researchers, civil society organisations and government champions, over many years. It is a stamp of recognition, as well as what we hope will be the dawn of strengthened national and international action to reduce lives lost to drowning globally, particularly in those regions where the burden remains greatest.”

This historic Resolution will be formally celebrated on the inaugural World Drowning Prevention Day on 25 July 2021. Please check our website for updates on how to join in activities to mark the day. You can read the Resolution in full here, and find out more about The George Institute’s work on drowning prevention here