The first drowning prevention day in Nepal was celebrated at Gadhimai Municipality, Rautahat
With the collaborative efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO) Nepal and Nexus Institute of Research and Innovation (NIRI Nepal), the World Drowning Prevention Day was observed in Nepal for the first time in Gadhimai municipality of Rautahat district today.
According to WHO estimates, around 1500 people lose their lives untimely to drowning in Nepal, even with those deaths being completely preventable. Despite this, these deaths have been largely neglected. So far, Nepal does not have a water safety strategy to deal with premature deaths from drowning, and therefore, no initiatives are in place to address this situation. In its present state, the only rescue and preventive measures are being undertaken by the Armed Police Force (APF) in case of natural flooding disasters or other water related incidents.
Globally, countries like the UK, Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland, India and Malaysia have been working tirelessly to reduce the number of drowning deaths. Due to the uproar in these countries, the United Nations and World Health Organization have been organizing World Drowning Prevention Day as an annual event on July 25 since 2021.
The day was observed for the first time in Nepal in Gadhimai municipality, with aims to kickstart and facilitate drowning prevention measures from a local level in Nepal. In this program, government authorities like the Department of Health, Department of Physical Infrastructure, Department of Education, and Nepal Police came together to actively participate and discuss appropriate drowning prevention measures. Furthermore, the Chamber of Commerce, NGOs, youth leaders, children groups, and FCHVs put forward their commitment to work on drowning prevention at the community level. As an expert, Ms. Bhagabati Sedain presented on the best practices for drowning prevention and its application in the Nepali context. She also mentioned the importance of the roles of different stakeholders in its prevention.
Ms. Anuradha Shrestha, Disability Inclusion and Rehabilitation Officer at WHO Nepal, mentioned that WHO is actively working towards drowning prevention globally, and is also interested in collaborating with both local and federal level stakeholders and ready to provide support. She also expressed her gratitude for organizing a program on the occasion of World Drowning Prevention Day. Similarly, Dr. Kamalesh Yadav, an NCD/MH officer from WHO Nepal stated an urgent need to address the drowning issue in Nepal by working towards its prevention. He further mentioned the multi-sectoral nature of this issue, with his willingness to collaboratively work towards the issue with other relevant stakeholders.
Senior researcher and Member of NIRI Nepal Dr. Puspa Raj Pant was also present in the program virtually, who stated that while playing, children have been losing countless lives to drowning. Hence, he also sent out a message stating that ensuring proper surveillance measures, as well as preventive measures like closing of well lids and construction of water barriers would be imperative to reducing child drowning deaths. The administrative officer of NIRI Nepal Mr. Suraj Parajuli highlighted that it is very urgent to work for drowning prevention with multisectoral collaborations. He further stated that raising massive awareness in the community and requesting local authorities for drowning prevention were the major objectives of the program. He highly appreciated the mayor’s and other community leaders’ commitment towards drowning prevention in the community.
As for other stakeholders, Mr. Ram Adhar Yadav, the Section Officer of Yamuna village municipality, expressed his commitment to include the risk of drowning and ways of prevention in the education system. Members of Nepal Police also mentioned the fact that they have been working towards different rescue measures for drowning. But since prevention is better than its cure, they stated their goal of working towards the improvement of the prevention situation. Similarly, members of the Armed Police Force urged the present authorities to help improve their current rescue resources to ensure a steep decline in drowning deaths in the days to come.
When speaking to youth representatives from Gadhimai municipality, they sent a message to stakeholders for their actions to address this problem urgently and expressed their willingness to collaborate to ensure no more youths were losing their lives to drowning. As a spokesperson for NGOs, Ms. Lalita Yadav stated that for an issue as frequent as drowning, there currently is a lack of responsibility shown by relevant authorities, which calls for commitment from all sectors. She also stated an important point: while they might be committed, they would also need the technical and expert support to ensure effectiveness of their future endeavors.
As a Chief of the ceremony, the mayor of Gadhimai Municipality Mr. Shyam Yadav took pride upon the fact that Gadhimai Municipality, a high-risk zone for drowning in Nepal, was hosting the first program on drowning prevention in Nepal. He added that local authorities in Gadhimai and surrounding areas would start working on the issue from this exact moment, with plans of coordinating among government line agencies in the near future. He ended his statement by saying ,”Since drowning is a leading cause of death not just in Gadhimai but also in the entirety of Madhesh Province, there is a need to expand our efforts so that people no longer lose their lives due to drowning.”
The program concluded with all ward chairpersons within the municipality signing the program banner, symbolizing their commitment and a successful first program conducted in Nepal.