The first-ever UN Resolution on global drowning prevention has been adopted by the UN General Assembly. Mike Tipton, Professor of Human & Applied Physiology, who has worked with the RNLI for many years on their annual lifesaving campaign explains why this is a big step in the right direction to help save thousands of lives around the world every year.

Some good news for those working in drowning prevention arrived recently with the notification that the General Assembly of the United Nations had adopted its first-ever resolution on global drowning prevention.

Led by Ireland and Bangladesh, and co-sponsored by over 80 countries, the resolution provides a comprehensive framework, and requests all 193 Member States of the UN to:

• Appoint a national focal point for drowning prevention;
• Develop a national drowning prevention plan with a set of measurable targets;
• Ensure effective water safety laws are in place;
• Encourage registration of drowning deaths;
• Promote the research and development of innovative drowning prevention tools and technology;
• Introduce water safety, swimming and first aid lessons as part of the school curriculum.

The resolution also introduces a new UN World Drowning Prevention Day on 25 July each year to galvanise action. It invites academia, amongst others, to observe this day.

It is estimated that 235,000 deaths are caused by drowning each year, this figure excludes drowning occurring in water transport incidents or attributable to flooding (increasing with climate change). Also, this number only relates to deaths caused by drowning, not to the life-long morbidity caused by an estimated 7 to 10 times this number of people. The resolution highlights concern that drowning has been the cause of over 2.5 million deaths in the past decade. Drowning is a leading global cause of injury-related child deaths, with 43 per cent of drowning deaths occurring in children under the age of 15 years and 25 per cent in children under five years of age.

Staff, including myself, at the University of Portsmouth have been working for many years in the area of drowning and drowning prevention in collaboration with groups like the RNLI, Hampshire Country Council, the MCA, Surf Lifesaving GB and others. For these researchers and these groups, the UN resolution represents a big step in the right direction towards drowning prevention.