Four people drown in South Africa every day – a major concern for lifesaving organisations – according to the latest Commonwealth drowning report.
The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) Commonwealth drowning report was released last month and explored the challenges of drowning worldwide.
According to the report, there were 1439 drownings in South Africa in 2017. The country was also ranked third in Africa and seventh in the world on the fatal drownings list in 2017.
Lifesaving SA general manager Helen Herbert said: “We are concerned that there are as many as four drowning per day. These are occurring in many areas with minimal resources and a lack of infrastructure around aquatic environments. As an African country that is considered to be a leader on the continent, it is concerning that we feature so high on the list.
Herbert said the resources within the country were limited as there were about 4500 trained lifeguards across the country to serve communities.
She said they were mainly deployed in urban areas where municipal infrastructure existed. It was a major concern that so many lives were lost in rural and low-income areas and in areas where lifeguards were not deployed or had ceased duties for the day.
“KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape have the highest drownings due to them being desired holiday destinations, followed by Eastern Cape and Gauteng. According to Statistics SA, 79% are male and 52% are under the age of 20; 27% are between 21 and 40 years,” she said.
RLSS drowning prevention director Aminur Rahman said more than 300 people were dying from drowning each day across the Commonwealth countries which were also low- and middle-income countries.
“Drowning is preventable, even in these low- and middle-income countries. Now is the time for action of Commonwealth nations to prevent these unnecessary deaths.”
RLSS and its members believe the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions present an opportunity for governments to be proactive in devising and implementing drowning-prevention strategies. These need to be developed according to each country’s needs to prevent further loss of lives.
Herbert said major catalyasts for drownings in South Africa were alcohol use in and around aquatic facilities, the lack of safe and secure facilities for recreational use and the lack of proper supervision.
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