Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,
On behalf of Ireland and Bangladesh, [and 63 co-sponsors], I have the honour to introduce the first-ever draft UN resolution on Global Drowning Prevention.
Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason and I, thank all delegations for their valuable contribution and support in finalizing the draft.
This draft resolution is proposed under agenda item 24: Eradication of poverty and other development issues’, and is contained in document A/75/L.76.
Allow me to take this opportunity to thank the 63 Member States that have co-sponsored the resolution, as of yesterday. We sincerely hope that more States will join this important resolution before its adoption now. It is critical to convey a strong message from this assembly, of the unequivocal support for efforts to prevent drowning globally.
I would also like to thank the Group of Friends on Drowning Prevention who have provided key support to advance this ambition over the past two years, generating awareness and action on this silent, and preventable killer.
And further, I wish to place on record our deep appreciation to the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (the RNLI), for their support and cooperation throughout the process.
In the last decade alone, more than 2.5 million lives were lost to the water. Needlessly. Infants slipping silently into ponds; fathers never returning from fishing trips; sisters submerged on their way to school. Wasted lives and preventable deaths on an epidemic scale.
Drowning is a major, and neglected, cause of global mortality – 235,000 lives lost every year, 650 every day, 26 every hour. Astounding figures. Annually, a greater loss of life than to maternal mortality or malnutrition.
It is an issue without geographical borders and boundaries. Any one, anywhere can drown. It affects every nation of the world, and some more dramatically and inequitably than others.
Over 90% of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, the highest rates recorded in Africa and the greatest number across Asia. With children and young people representing the majority of lives lost. Our future.
Despite its global burden, drowning is regarded as a ‘silent epidemic’ – unrecognized, and under-resourced, relative to its impact.
The imperative to act on drowning is not simply moral or political. The economic cost is equally untenable. The global cost is estimated at $146 billion dollars annually, and for some low-income countries that is equivalent to 0.8% of their gross national income. Drowning is, therefore, not just an injury, it is an inequity.
But all is not lost; we can still arrest this trend. Every drowning death is preventable, through tested, low-cost solutions. And action on drowning presents us all with an opportunity. An opportunity to advance several of the UN sustainable development goals.
For example, drowning prevention can catalyse progress in ending preventable under-five mortality, particularly in countries where drowning is a leading cause of child death. Drowning prevention can actually protect hard-won gains and investment in immunization, nutrition and education, which is, sadly lost to the water with every young life. And there are links to achieving progress on other SDGs too, if we take action on this avoidable loss of life; including goals 5, 6, 10, 11 and 13.
My own country, Bangladesh, is on the frontline in the fight against drowning. Bangladesh’s own journey of recognition and response to drowning has been continuing for well over a decade. And I am happy to report that we are making progress, as are several other regional neighbors, who, like us, experience a high drowning burden – especially amongst our children.
We are making progress with the development of a national drowning prevention plan, and action at community level; (in) developing, testing and adapting interventions that can, and are, saving lives. At relative low cost.
How? We are ensuring young-children are supervised and kept safe around water by care-givers; that barriers or fencing is installed around open water such as ponds and wells; that young children have the opportunity to learn swimming skills that may save their life; that community members can perform CPR and first aid (if the worst happens); and crucially, that communities are aware that drowning is preventable, and is not fate.
We are starting to see some success.
But certainly more can be done, and we are committed to act now. We know others share this urgency and ambition as well – nationally, regionally and internationally – and the significant support for this resolution is testament to that. Our joint leadership on this resolution with Ireland – itself an island nation familiar with both the promise and risk that water presents – demonstrates that by working together, across regions and risk profiles, progress on drowning prevention is possible.
The text before us includes some editorial amendments made by the UN Secretariat. These do not affect the content or substance of the resolution. We would like to sincerely thank all Member States for their constructive approach and flexibility in reaching this point, and for their important contributions throughout the consultation process.
The final draft of the resolution contains 15 preambular paragraphs and 7 operative paragraphs.
In the preambular section, we express concern at the magnitude of the problem; how it has largely remained unrecognized; and note that drowning is a social equity issue.
We recall key agreements such as, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage; the relevant resolutions of the World Health Assembly; as well as, other major global frameworks, including the Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework and the New Urban Agenda.
The operative paras invite and encourage Member States within the context of their national condition to, amongst others: appoint a national focal point for drowning prevention; develop national prevention plans, policy and programmes; enact and enforce national laws; generate and amplify awareness campaigns; support international and regional cooperation; and promote research and development in the field of drowning prevention .
It also decides to proclaim the 25th of July as “World Drowning Prevention Day”, to be observed every year globally, on a voluntary basis. And invites the World Health Organization to facilitate the observance.
The observance of the Day, would provide an opportunity to commemorate lives lost, and to accelerate life-saving solutions; to bring governments, UN agencies, civil society, drowning prevention practitioners and communities together, recognizing that drowning is preventable through collective action.
We wish to reiterate our hope that this resolution will pave the way for increased awareness to prevent drowning and, most importantly, for cooperation and collaboration at national, regional and global levels. We can no longer bear witness to the loss of precious lives to the water when solutions exist and political will is now evident.
Drowning, and its prevention, has been entirely absent from the first 75 years of UN activity. But this year, we redress this gap. This resolution represents long-overdue recognition of this major cause of mortality, and the solutions and opportunity that exist to address it.
On behalf of Ambassador Geraldine Bryne Nason and myself, I wish to thank everyone, sincerely, for their support, and we hope that the Assembly can adopt this resolution by overwhelming consensus today. I thank you, Mr. President.