700 drowning cases recorded in Malaysia every year

National Water Activity Safety Council (WASC) member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (second from left) at the Drowning Prevention Seminar at the Penang Medical College (PMC), Jalan Sepoy Lines, Penang today. Pix by Danial Saad















GEORGE TOWN: Malaysia records a total of 1.6 cases of drowning daily.

Annually, the country recorded 700 cases of drowning, of which 500 involved children, aged between one and 18-years-old.

For the first nine months of this year, a total of 31 children were found drowned in swimming pools and theme parks, with the highest number recorded in Selangor, Kedah and Pahang. About 75 percent of the children were under five-years-old.

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s report showed that about 40 people drowned worldwide every hour which summed up to 372,000 people every year.

These startling figures are more than enough to compel the authorities to introduce a comprehensive plan to reduce the number of such incidents.

National Water Activity Safety Council (WASC) member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said, to do that, the authorities needed to first build a complete database with statistics and related information on drowning.

“Data collection is the first step in preventing drowning because it allows us to study the causes, the hotspots and how each (pattern) drowning case occurs.

“It will also enable the authorities, through the relevant agencies and WASC, to develop immediate and long-term measures to address the issue,” he said when opening the Drowning Prevention Seminar at the Penang Medical College (PMC) here today.

Present were Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry assistant chief secretary Mohamad Faizal Bolhan, WASC member Professor Dr R. Krishnan, Life Saving Society of Malaysia president and WASC member C.C. Lim and Perak Clinical Research Centre head Datuk Dr Amar Singh.

Lee said drowning cases were preventable, provided that all relevant parties and the public play their roles effectively.

Firstly, he added, parents needed to monitor their children while playing in the water.

He pointed to a study by the Perak Clinical Research Centre which showed that about 500 children drowned annually, and it was the second highest cause of death among children.

“Drowning cases often involve students and teens, especially during the school holidays. More worrying, half of the victims are those who tried to save other children.

“More often than not, many parents are unaware that their children are playing near the river or pond,” he said, adding that schools also have to create awareness on drowning by inviting representatives from WASC or relevant agencies to give a briefing on the danger of drowning before the school holidays begin.

Similarly, Lee stressed, local authorities should also pay serious attention and provide adequate funds to ensure the safety of waterfalls, water recreation areas and beaches under their jurisdiction.

“Warning signs should be installed at strategic places to remind the public of the danger of drowning in high-risk areas while damaged or vandalised signages should be replaced immediately.

“The authorities must also compel landowners to fence disused mining pools or ponds on their lands.

“All parties should make drowning prevention as part of their culture while children and school students should be taught about the danger of drowning and ways to avoid being a victim.

“If possible, all children should be sent to swimming classes besides learning about first aid to help the victims of drowning and other disasters,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Amar said for every one dengue death among children, 30 died from drowning.

He said for this year, the Perak Clinical Research Centre had obtained the support from the Health Ministry to establish a National Registry on Drowning in Children with a view to identify areas it can work on in terms of prevention.

He added that the incidents of 31 children who drowned in swimming pools and theme parks could have been prevented by better vigilance and adequate safety measures.

“No child should be unsupervised in or near any body of water. The rule needs to be enforced especially at swimming pools and theme parks. No child should be allowed into the water without an accompanying adult. Children under five-years-old should routinely be offered lifeguard-approved flotation devices.

“Adequate numbers of trained lifeguards must be available at all swimming pools and theme parks whenever they are operational. All swimming pools should have fencing around all four sides to prevent accidental entry by a young child.

“With the end of year school holidays just around the corner, parents, hotel managers and theme park administrators should increase vigilance and review safety measures to prevent further drowning in children. It is tragic for a young child to lose their life or be brain damaged by drowning when involved in any recreational activities,” he added.

This article is based on the Drowning Prevention seminar at Penang Medical College on October 11, 2017.

The article was published in New Straits Times Online

The seminar organised by Prof Dr R. Krishnan, PMC’s Head of Family Medicine who is also a member of the Water Activity Safety Council and co-sponsored by Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry also saw panel speakers from Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry, assistant chief secretary, Mohamad Faizal Bolhan, Life Saving Society of Malaysia (LSSM) president and WASC member, Mr Lim Chi’en Cheng and Perak Clinical Research Centre head Datuk Dr Amar Singh, who is also Head of Paediatrics Unit at Raja Permaisuri Bainun Ipoh Hospital.

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