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Kathryn Murray
Tuesday, December 02, 2014

What is drowning?

In accordance to the World Health Organisation (2014, Global report on drowning: preventing a leading killer) drowning is defined as: "The process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion / immersion in liquid".

What the statistics for 2014 are currently telling us:

* 29.2 per cent of our current drowning's are:

* Aged 1 (and walking) to and including 5 year old girls and boys

* 5 in every 6 were iTaukei toddlers

From villages

* Found in the afternoon floating in the rivers, creeks and the ocean: 9 in every 10 were unsupervised

Global comparative facts

Globally, victims under 5 years old drowned (26 per cent ditch, 43 per cent pond, 13 per cent container, 7 per cent lake, 5 per cent river, 6 per cent other).

In Fiji, it's the following: 42 per cent ocean, 25 per cent river, 25 per cent creek, 8 per cent pond.

Key messages

* Install barriers to control access to water

* Leave your child in capable hands well away from water and water access

* Teach school-aged children swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills

* Train bystanders in first aid and CPR

According to the Fiji Police Force Commissioner of Police Major General Ben Groenewald: "Children are the responsibility of their parents. Do you think it is an easy task for the police to criminally charge a parent for negligence after they lost a child? Know the whereabouts of all your older children. Your children are your responsibility".

Drowning is preventable

27 per cent of our current drownings are men aged 22 - 37 years

6 in every 11 are found in the ocean

9 in every 11 are iTaukei who were last seen diving, fishing, swimming

7 in every 11 have occurred in the villages

1 in every 11 have had CPR applied

3. 6 per cent of our current drownings have been people with epilepsy

Global comparative facts

 Globally, 50 per cent of drowning victims are under 25.

 In Fiji, this figure is 65 per cent

 Globally, males are twice as likely as females to drown.

 The result is the same for Fiji.

Key messages

1. Remember to report to the turaga ni koro BEFORE and AFTER you go diving

2. ALWAYS dive with a buddy

3. Check the weather forecast — listen to the radio before you go out

4. Always dive with a spotter

5. Teach water safety and safe rescue skills

6. Train bystanders in first aid and CPR

Keith Andrews, Acting Operations Manager at the Fiji Red Cross society says: "Drowning is a preventable cause of death. The duration and severity of hypoxia sustained as a result of drowning is the single most important determinant of outcome.

"Immediate CPR can double or triple the victim's chance of survival.

"Rescuers should remove drowning victims from the water by the fastest means available and should begin resuscitation as quickly as possible.

"Rescuers should provide CPR, particularly rescue breathing, as soon as an unresponsive submersion victim is removed from the water.

"When rescuing a drowning victim of any age, the first aider should give 5 cycles (about two minutes) of CPR before leaving the victim to activate.

"Cardiac arrest can also occur after the onset of a heart attack or electrocution or near drowning."

About 75 to 80 per cent of all out of the hospital cardiac arrests happen at home. Being trained to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation can mean the difference between life and death for a loved one. Effective bystander CPR can double a victim's chance of survival. If more people knew CPR, more lives could be saved.

So, who is the Water Safety Council (FIJI) Ltd and who is it made up of?

We are a not-for-profit organisation that is working across government departments and agencies (including education institutions; sporting bodies) and the private sector to reduce the drowning toll in and around Fiji.

We were officially established in 2014 following a series of stakeholder engagements at local, national and international levels. Apart from Kathryn Murray, the Water Safety Council FIJI comprises seven board members: Patrick Bower, Henry Elder Sr, Litiana Loabuka, Glynis Miller, John Philp, Barry Sweetman, John Tunidau.

Our role is to:

* Drive effective and clear messages to those who are statistically prone to waterway environments be it for work, residence or play

* Assist in the development of comprehensive programs to educate our audience

* Utilise the data to its fullest capacity and allow room to continuously improve our recording and reporting skills

* Increase the knowledge bank of all Fijians and visitors on drowning prevention; and

* Share the news to enable a holistic lifestyle change that both encapsulates and unites the country in understanding and demonstrating water safety awareness and prevention.

Fiji, let's work together to champion a lifestyle change in water safety measures through a collaborative, educational and research-driven approach on drowning prevention.

* Kathryn Murray represents the Water Safety

Council FIJI.

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