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Lifesaving training, community support needed to tackle drownings in Phuket: ILS Chair

Lifesaving training, community support needed to tackle drownings in Phuket: ILS Chair

PHUKET: The Chair of the International Life Saving Federation (ILSF) Drowning Prevention Commission, Justin Scarr, has stressed the importance of lifesaving training, community involvement and making public information available in key local areas as crucial in preventing more drownings at Phuket’s beaches.

By Tanyaluk Sakoot

Thursday 10 October 2019, 11:03AM

Speaking to The Phuket News at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention currently being held in Durban, South Africa, Mr Scarr explained, “The ILS and WHO raise global, regional and national awareness of drowning and its prevention in order to reduce the number of drownings worldwide.

“We are aiming to reduce the number drownings more quickly, and to achieve that in Phuket lifesaving training is important.

“Also, building up a drowning prevention group by local people and making public information available in several local areas are crucial,” he added.

“It is not only about drownings at the beach, but also at swimming pools in hotels or homes and at lakes,” Mr Scarr pointed out.

“I expect that people learn, focus on and build up drowning prevention groups in their communities,” Mr Scarr said.

“Also people are being trained in drowning prevention by Phuket Life Saving, which is the only such [lifesaving] organisation in Thailand, and which has the experience and skills from the International Life Saving Federation,” he noted.

More than 200 presenters from 50 nations have been invited to take part the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Durban, which quietly began with workshops and international committee meetings starting last Friday (Oct 4) and culminates with a series of keynote speeches by leading figures in drowning prevention from Tuesday through today (Oct 8-10).

The conference has brought together the world’s foremost experts, researchers and policy-makers in drowning prevention, rescue, lifesaving and water safety to exchange, debate and review the latest progress on preventing drowning.


Thailand has been given clear prominence at the conference following confirmation in August that the country is still “number one” for child drowning deaths among Asean countries, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that the rate of drownings in Thailand is twice as high as the world’s average.

Caroline Lukaszyk, Region Data Coordinator of the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific and South-East Asia, reported at the conference that the rate of drownings in Thailand is at a record high.

“The estimated drowning mortality rate in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia Region for Thailand is 8.2 per 100,000 population. It is still the highest [for Thailand] on record,” she said.

In a WHO report issued only earlier this year referring to statistics from 2017, Thailand had a child drowning mortality rate of 7.1.

In a report released by the National Institute for Child and Family Development (NICFD) in March, it was revealed that between the years 2000 to 2018, there were more than 22,700 drownings involving children under 15 in Thailand, an average of 1,262 children per year or a shocking five kids per day.

Laguna Golf Phuket

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 Songkran school holidays from April 12-23 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.”


The World Conference on Drowning Prevention in South Africa comes as the latest WHO estimates report 320,000 people dying from drowning worldwide each year. This is the third time that the global drowning prevention community has meet since the publication by WHO of the Global report on drowning: preventing a leading killer in November 2014.

Drowning is among the 10 leading causes of death for children and young people in every region of the world. Over half of all drowning deaths are among those aged under 25 years. An implementation guide was launched in 2017 as a technical package designed to assist with drowning prevention interventions, which was discussed at the conference.

Dr David Meddings of the WHO Department for Management of NCDs, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, explained, “More than 90% of drowning occurs in low- and middle-income countries, with nations in the African, Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions having the highest rates.

“Children 1-4 years of age are particularly vulnerable to drowning. This loss of life is largely preventable through actions described in the implementation guide to prevent drowning,” he added.

The guide, published in 2017, highlights situational assessment for drowning prevention; interventions and strategies; strategies to support drowning prevention interventions; the need to promote multisectoral collaboration, strengthen public awareness of drowning through strategic communications and to establish a national water safety plan.

To download the guide in English, click here.

To download the guide in Thai, click here.

The Phuket News Chief Reporter Tanyaluk Sakoot was one of only 10 journalists selected worldwide to attend the World Conference on Drowning Prevention (WCDP2019) through a Reporting Fellowship generously provided by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) to empower journalists. See the ICFJ website here.

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Kurt | 11 October 2019 - 11:09:01

Do thai government Officials   who are responsible for thai beach safety now not feel embarrassed that destination Thai Phuket Beaches about safety also was a point of international discussion abroad in Durban? Perhaps TAT should put drowning figures also in their publications. To encourage thai officials to do better.

BenPendejo | 10 October 2019 - 18:40:54

Another shameful statistic for Thailand, being #1 for child drowning deaths among ASEAN countries. Like the pathetic road safety and environmental mismanagement reputation, gov't officials appear to be completely baffled as to what they need to do, so they end up doing nothing except come up with all kinds of foolish ideas that yield "0" results. No change in sight.

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