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Lifesaving SA plea: Prevent drowning, second-biggest killer of young children

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About 1,500 people drown in South Africa every year and that excludes “a fair number” who survive but are incapacitated, Lifesaving South Africa (LSA) warned in a statement highlighting World Drowning Prevention Day on Tuesday.

July 25 was marked by the UN general assembly in 2021 to bring attention to a plight that is ultimately preventable.

LSA called on all people “to do just one thing or do just one more thing” to reduce drownings. President Dhaya Sewduth explained this could involve:

  • homeowners ensuring their pools were fenced off or properly covered.
  • that toddlers do not have unmonitored access to buckets and tubs of water; or
  • that teachers taking classes on outings to the sea contacted a beach manager to ensure they were directed to safe bathing areas under expert supervision.

LSA said statistics showed that drowning was the second-largest cause of unnatural deaths in children under five years old after road accidents, adding that this mirrored the age demographic as reported in the World Health Organisation’s global drowning report in 2014.

Another problem was that a large number of South Africans did not have swimming skills and were unable to aid someone in the process of drowning or provide first aid to someone who had been saved.

“Even in water-scarce regions of our communities, where storing water in all manner of vessels, puts young children at risk of falling headfirst into containers and drowning …

“Climate change and the increased incidences of flooding have also exposed the lack of risk mitigation actions by communities and authorities.”

LSA said in its 113 years it had saved more than 136,000 lives, and in more recent years its annual average was about 2,400 lives a year.

Not only had it created more than 3,500 permanent jobs for professional lifeguards, but its volunteers had also contributed the equivalent of R36m in duty hours over a year to municipalities as well as the hotel and tourism industries.

The organisation, which runs its Watersmart programme aimed at school children, is also a sports federation that boasts world champions. Their participants have won medals in other sports, like triathlete Henri Schoeman, the 2018 Commonwealth Games champion who won Olympic bronze at Rio 2016. He was part of LSA’s nipper programme for youngsters, which helped teach him how to read currents, a useful skill for the swimming leg of the triathlon.

Source: TimesLIVE

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