Children in Thailand Drown at Twice the World Average

Thailand is still “number one” for deaths by drowning in Asean among children and its rate is twice as high as the world’s average, said the World Health Organisation (WHO), which added local organisations should help to stop the fatalities.

Thaksaphon Thamarangsi, director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Environmental Health with WHO’s Southeast Asia Regional Office, said Thailand has made positive strides in reducing the number of deaths caused by drowning. However, its average is still too high.

Thaksaphon said local administrative organisations and schools must limit loss of life by providing training to children to ensure their safety in the water.

“In terms of numbers, we are number one in the ASEAN region; all agencies must work together to stop the deaths of these children,” he said.

Drowning is still the leading cause of death among children under the age of 15 in Thailand, but fatalities have fallen to a new low, according to another report released by the National Institute for Child and Family Development (NICFD).

Between 2000-2018, there were more than 22,700 drownings involving children under 15 in the kingdom, which averages about 1,262 children per year or a shocking five kids per day, the report said.

At the highest point, drowning caused about 56% of child deaths, followed by road accidents at 25% and falling from heights at 8%.

The number of drownings is reportedly highest during school summer breaks. The 12-day period from April 12 to 23 is the deadliest period for such accidents.

“Most drowning deaths occur in or near children’s homes,” said NICFD director Adisak Plitponkarnpim.

“For small children, such incidents usually happen when parents leave their children out of sight. For older kids, they will sneak out to play in water with their friends without telling their parents, although they can’t really swim,” he said.

However, Dr Adisak said, the number of child drownings in Thailand has been decreasing over the past two decades due to improvements in swimming and water safety lessons.

Last year, drowning only caused 727 child deaths, a significantly lower figure than the 1,244 deaths a decade ago.

“Although the decline in the number of child drownings this summer is promising, drowning remains the leading cause of unintentional death for children aged one to four,” said Dr Adisak.

To cut the high number of drownings, the NICFD director said all related agencies such as the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Public Health must keep promoting water safety awareness among children.

“We’ve done a great job over the last 20 years, but we can still do better. For example, many schools start teaching students to swim at the age of 10. That’s a bit too late in my opinion. We should begin teaching them from the age of six,” he said.

Dr Adisak said the NICFD has set a target to reduce the number of child drownings in Thailand to less than 250 a year by 2022.