February 2020 saw the completion of an illuminating report, the first of its kind, to provide a detailed analysis on the issue of fatal drowning across the Commonwealth, with additional information on both strategic and practical, achievable preventative measures.

Published in July, the report, led by Dr Aminur Rahman - the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) Drowning Prevention Director based with the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB) - and the RLSS Member in Bangladesh, give an evidence-based estimate of fatal drownings in Commonwealth nations. This data provides a better understanding of the mortality burden in Commonwealth countries, ultimately leading to more effective prevention actions.

The most recent figures estimate that the Commonwealth drowning fatalities number 110,594, accounts for over a third of all fatal drownings globally. Of all the countries in the Commonwealth, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan bear the heaviest burden of tragedies, accounting for over three-quarters of the estimated Commonwealth drowning fatality total.

“More than 300 people die from drowning each day across the Commonwealth, with low and middle-income (LMIC) countries the most vulnerable. Drowning is preventable even in these LMICs. Now is the time for action by the Commonwealth nations, to prevent these unnecessary deaths” highlights the report lead, Dr Aminur Rahman.

RLSS exists to promote water safety across the Commonwealth through education, training and qualifications and believes that accidental drowning is a devastating loss of life, made harder to bear by being a preventable death.

These measures will align RLSS’s position statement on the ‘Connection of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the Global Drowning Prevention Effort’; and sees allied partners develop and maintain drowning prevention work alongside the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘Global Report on Drowning’ and relevant SDGs.

RLSS Commonwealth President, HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO, added his voice to the call for action:

“Over the last year, the Royal Life Saving Society has been undertaking a vital piece of work, to report the number of deaths by drowning in the Commonwealth.

“There is a real concern that the loss of life to drowning might be much higher in many Commonwealth nations. This due to deaths by drowning not being recorded accurately, or even at all. The figures we do have, tell us that the number of lives lost is extremely high; given that some simple interventions could prevent people from drowning.

“Today, I am calling on all Commonwealth Governments and supported agencies, to use the data in the Commonwealth Fatal Drowning Fact Sheet, in collaboration with key agencies and lifesaving organisations, to start the process that ultimately could see accidental drowning a thing of the past.

“I implore you to share this important issue with your governments and put an end to the unnecessary loss of life through simple, yet effective, drowning prevention interventions.”