Editorial comment: Drowning in the spotlight

Senivalati Navutu points to the spot where Mosese Duikoro Mamafailoa and Laisenia Tuitubou drowned at Nasau in Sigatoka. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

DISTRAUGHT mother Marica Muavesi Koroitamana wanted her son Mosese Mamafainoa Dukoro to stay with her in Santa Rosa, California in the US.

She tried to coax him to remain with her there when he visited her last month. That would be the last time she would see him alive, just before he flew back to Fiji, to fulfil a dream he harboured to become a preacher.

Ms Koroitamana’s youngest son was one of two men who allegedly drowned in the Sigatoka River on Sunday while trying to rescue another friend. In fact best friends Dukoro and Laisenia Tuitubou travelled to Sigatoka from Suva for their former Queen Victoria School classmate Tevita Kuruilagi’s 21st birthday party.

They had important roles to play at the event. One was master of ceremony while the other was in charge of the music. As our report on Page 3 highlights, they were a close group of friends.

They shared similar interests and were civil engineering students at the Fiji National University. The young men were scheduled to return to Suva yesterday. The two friends were enjoying an afternoon swim when they heard the call for help from another friend. They responded, and met their deaths.

Death is inevitable. It’s a fact of life. Accidents do happen, but they can be prevented. Ideally, every Fijian should be a capable swimmer, especially when one considers the fact we are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and have many rivers, streams and creeks criss-crossing their way through our islands.

Awareness campaigns are needed to push the message of vigilance. Drowning statistics hit an all-time high in 2005 when 68 people died. It cost the economy $9,956,589.60. Police estimated in 2012 that an average of 48.5 people drowned annually. This, it said, would amount to about five people for every 100,000 with our population at approximately 900,000.

Margaret Chan the former director-general for the World Health Organization, said in one of its Global Report on Drowning that every hour of every day more than 40 people lost their lives to drowning. The WHO said drowning claimed an estimated 372,000 victims annually.

In its fact sheet that was reviewed in September 2016, it listed drowning as the third leading cause of unintentional injury and death worldwide, accounting for 7 per cent of all injury-related deaths. Accidents happen because we allow them to. Many among us do not know the first thing about swimming, leave aside water safety issues. We have before us a massive challenge.

The important thing is to ensure our children learn to swim and it is critical that we all appreciate water safety tips.