Violence and Injury Prevention

Drowning

Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid. Drowning outcomes are classified as death, morbidity and no morbidity. Agreed terminology is essential to describe the problem and to allow effective comparisons of drowning trends. Thus, this definition of drowning adopted by the 2002 World Congress on Drowning should be widely used.

In 2004, an estimated 388 000 people died from drowning, making drowning a major public health problem worldwide. It should be borne in mind that there is a wide range of uncertainty around the estimate of global drowning deaths and that the global problem is much greater than these figures reveal due to a number of reasons. These include issues with the manner in which data are classified, meaning that these global numbers exclude drowning due to floods (cataclysms), boating and water transport mishaps. Non-fatal drowning statistics in many countries are not readily available or are unreliable. The vast majority (approximately 96%) of all drowning deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The Western Pacific and South East Asia regions account for 60% of the mortality and DALYs. In general, children under 5 years of age have the highest drowning mortality rates worldwide.

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Ms. Laura Sminkey
Communications Officer
Email: sminkeyl@who.int
Tel.: +41 22 791 45 47