Helpcode Cambodia is planning a July 24-26 leaflet campaign on water safety, the basics of swimming and how to prevent drowning to visitors to the coastal areas of Preah Sihanouk and Kampot provinces.
Chey Ratana, technical director of the international NGO, told The Post on July 20 that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has set July 25 as World Drowning Prevention Day, and Helpcode Cambodia is marking the date with this campaign. For 2022, the day will be observed with the theme “Do one thing to prevent drowning” to encourage all communities globally to pay more attention to preventing drowning.
Ratana said the number of people drowning is increasing year on year, adding that the leaflets are specifically aimed at tourists who may have no experience swimming in the ocean.
“Anyone can drown, but few people think it could happen to them. This is why hundreds of thousands of people die every year,” he said.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of death worldwide for people aged 1-24. Every year, about 236,000 people drown, according to data published by the WHO this week.
It showed that more than 90 per cent of drowning occurred in low and middle income countries, with children under the age of 5 at the highest risk.
In Cambodia last year, drowning rose to 1,113, representing 1.24 per cent of all deaths in the country. This figure places Cambodia 12th in the world, according to the WHO.
“These deaths are often associated with daily activities such as bathing, fetching water, boating and fishing. The effects of seasonal weather events, including monsoons, are also frequent causes of drowning,” said the report.
However, it noted that most of these deaths were preventable, through better assessments of conditions and the installation of water access barriers. Other solutions include providing a safe place away from deep water for preschool children to receive swimming lessons, and safe rescue techniques.
Identifying and enforcing safe boating solutions, stricter regulation of commercial ferries and improved flood risk management were also recommended.
Helpcode Cambodia has been implementing water safety and drowning prevention programmes since 2018, and is cooperating with the Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sport to run its programmes there.
Ratana said that by the end of this year, the organisation will have provided water safety and first aid training to 3,000 children in various communities in Preah Sihanouk and Kampot.
“Our organisation is continuing its mission to prevent drowning and to keep Cambodian children and their families safe and happy in and around the water,” he said.
In three consecutive days, July 18-20, six people drowned in Cambodia, including two in Siem Reap province and one each in Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang and Battambang. In June, six children drowned in ponds and streams.
Regarding the drowning, Soth Kimkolmony, spokesman for the National Committee for Disaster Management, called on people living in the lowlands along rivers, lakes, canals and the ocean to increase their vigilance. Families should be especially watchful of children, the elderly and pregnant women and make sure they stay away from water.
At the same time, he urged all public servants, especially the armed forces, to be ready to rescue people affected by flooding.
He noted that the committee does not record all drowning deaths.
“Generally, we collect data on drowning deaths only during floods. We do not record other drownings as they are deemed accidents, and not linked to natural disasters,” he said.
Flooding in 2021 caused the deaths of 14 people, he noted.