Editorial comment – A reminder about water safety

Image: FIJI POLICE

The revelation that 17 people have drowned during natural disasters between 2017 and August 2021 is interesting.

The data was released by the Fiji Police Force and was highlighted by National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) director Vasiti Soko.

The majority of these incidents, she noted, involved people being swept away by strong currents while trying to cross flooded rivers, creeks, and streams during disasters.

“This is why the NDMO continuously pleads with the public to stay away from these flooded areas. These fatalities can be reduced because avoiding drowning is well within our control,” she said.

Members of the public, she said, needed to remember that crossing flooded rivers and streams could result in loss of lives and also place search and rescue teams at risk.

We have stated this before.

The World Health Organization notes that drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7 per cent of all injury-related deaths.

Global estimates may significantly underestimate the actual public health problem related to drowning.

Children, males and individuals with increased access to water are most at risk of drowning.

WHO states that in 2019, an estimated 236,000 people died from drowning, making drowning a major public health problem worldwide. In 2019, injuries accounted for almost 8 per cent of total global mortality.

Over half of the world’s drowning occurred in the Western Pacific regions and South-East Asian region.

As we face changing weather patterns, accompanied by heavy rain around the country, it is apt that we remind ourselves about water safety once again this early in the new year.

Ideally every Fijian should be a capable swimmer.

You’d think there were many reasons for parents and guardians to encourage children to learn to swim.

Unfortunately this isn’t so.

Not everyone is a good swimmer, and there are many reasons for that.

In an ideal world, we all would be very good swimmers, and understand and appreciate water safety.

However, we are not in an ideal world.

As parents and guardians, we can’t take anything for granted.

So adhering to water safety tips becomes a critical element in the fight against drowning.

There was a time when Fiji stood to lose an average $6.9 million a year through drowning.

Figures released during a stakeholder meeting of the Fiji Water Safety Council in Suva in April 2012, revealed we suffered a loss of $89.5 million from 1999 to 2011 through drowning.

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 amounted to about five people for every 100,000 with our population at approximately 900,000.

So let’s be proactive and vigilant and let us appreciate the power of nature.

Let’s place value on water safety tips.

Let’s be catalysts for change.

Let’s be careful around floodwaters, and let’s not push the boundaries and place our lives at risk.

Stay well and stay safe Fiji!

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