Sri Lanka An island plagued by drowning incidents
At times the sea looks so calm that it seems fascinating, but at times it is so
rough and threatens to bring death to a few lives. Thus, it is indeed essential to be vigilant when
anging around the sea, rivers, lakes and canals. The latest tragedy in water was reported from Thelgam
u Oya, Laggala, Matale where eight people, including children from two families, were drowned.
Extract from the inaugural Drowning prevention Report for Sri Lanka Published in December 2014
Police Media Spokesperson ASP Ruwan Gunasekara told the Daily Mirror that 373 deaths had been reported between January to June (2017). According to him 877 deaths had been reported in 2016.
There have been a series of water related accidents that have been reported on. One that came under the spotlight is the tragedy where eight deaths, two being families, was reported in the Thelgamu Oya, Laggala, Matale.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, the President of the Life Saving Association of Sri Lanka Asanka Nanayakkara told that on average, 900 people drowned in Sri Lanka each year adding that there was a drowning rate of 4.5 deaths per 100,000 persons.
“Sri Lanka has one of the highest drowning rates globally and is placed 12th among 61 countries where death figures are high through drowning. Sri Lanka is placed 10th highest among 35 low and middle-income countries (LMIC) where death figures are high through drowning.
Nanayakkara said that the Drowning Prevention Report is compiled by the Life Saving Association of Sri Lanka and Life Saving Victoria with the support of the World Health Organization.This is the first report to study the extent of the drowning problem in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka being an island surrounded by water and with a large number of waterways, rivers, waterholes, lakes and tanks suggests its citizens must possess the ability to swim or acquire basic life saving skills,” the head of the Life Saving Association affirmed.
Nanayakkara stated that the association’s strategy is to make drowning prevention activities more widespread starting from the school level. He added that his association was working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Social Service, Health Disaster Management, Defense, Education, Sports & Tourism, International Life Saving Federation and Commonwealth Royal Life Saving UK to address the issue of drowning in Sri Lanka.
Adults aged between 25-44 most vulnerable
Armed forces personnel deployed as lifeguards
“Lifesaving services are being carried out across the island. A lifesaving service comprises trained lifeguards who are on duty with rescue and First Aid equipment. Lifesaving services are a key solution to address deaths through drowning in open water environments such as beaches, rivers, lakes and reservoirs/tanks. There are 51 lifesaving service locations in Sri Lanka with a total of 1,400 qualified lifeguards performing duties. Over 400 rescues are reported annually by lifeguards. This amounts to 400 lives saved,” he said.
Drowning is preventable and the key areas to focus on are recommended in the report as follows:
- Target school-age children and adults aged between 25 to 44.
- Develop nationally recognized learn to swim programme guidelines for swim schools and swim teachers.
- Incorporate minimum water safety and rescue skills into learn to swim programmes.
- Incorporate student-instructor ratios, appropriate for the skill level and water conditions.
- Increase access to learn to swim programmes for children in low socioeconomic families.
Source: Registrar General’s Department
In conclusion, it should be noted that tragic incidents related to aquatic activities can be prevented if only we become a little more conscious of the phenomena around those areas. Otherwise, valuable lives get vanished from the earth in vain. As the experts said, the fundamental ground for these tragedies is negligence. Therefore, we have to think of this issue seriously so that these types of unfortunate incidents would not take place in the long run.