Children from Sundarbans, West Bengal create a first of its kind ‘Child Parliament’ to raise concern about avoidable child deaths due to drowning
3 Drowning deaths between 1-9 year old children every day in Sundarban
Kolkata: The United Nations General Assembly has recently adopted a historic resolution on global drowning prevention, acknowledging it for the first time in the UN’s 75-year history. The resolution establishes drowning prevention as an important international issue, recognised by all 193 Member States (countries) of the United Nations. It has set out a framework of actions that every country should take to prevent drowning.
Child In Need Institute-CINI with its five decades of experience in child health had recently launched a massive Drowning Prevention Campaign through Child Parliament Initiative in Sundarbans. To celebrate the 1st ever of the World Drowning Prevention Day with the theme of “Creating Child Friendly Communities”, CINI took a Children’s Rights based approach to promote decision-making processes that are more collaborative and inclusive for children. It created an enabling environment for these children to voice their ideas, thoughts and feelings. Unsurprisingly, an impressive number of bright and inspiring children are interested in influencing decisions that affect their lives.
As the world observes the inaugural World Drowning Prevention Day on July 25 2021, Child In Need Institute-CINI and The George Institute have called on policy makers in India to put in place a national drowning prevention plan to prevent unnecessary and avoidable deaths. CINI and TGI call for a national water safety plan on the occasion. Drowning has emerged as the second largest cause of deaths in India due to injury, with nearly 62000 drowning deaths each year. Children under the age of 14 years are at the highest risk with 30% of all drowning deaths reported are of children.
Dr. Samir Chaudhuri, Founder Secretary, Child in Need Institute said, “CINI’s rights-based approach aims at creating Child Friendly Community, where families, schools, police stations, social and physical settings are committed to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights in the spheres of health, nutrition, education and protection from all forms of abuse, exploitation and violence. As key rights-holders, children and women are encouraged to participate in making decisions that affect their lives. Primary duty-bearers are supported in fulfilling their rights, in particular.”
Mr. Sujoy Roy, Advocacy Manager, Child In Need Institute (CINI) said, “Although the world as a whole has been accelerating progress in reducing the under-5 mortality rate like West Bengal, difference exist in under-5 mortality across regions and countries, Half of all under-five deaths in 2019 occurred in just five countries, among them Nigeria and India alone account for almost a third of all deaths. Through this CINI is trying to contribute in achieving SDG Target 3.2 to end preventable deaths. Child Parliament shows the sufferings and emotions of the children of this region. Their ideas ranged from obvious to simple to innovative solutions to tackle the drowning problem in the region. Some examples include younger children wearing squeaky shoes when they are playing to make supervision easy, removing all attractive things from around the ponds and teaching swimming and rescue techniques to all adults in the community. We have gathered their views and drafted the Child Declaration to reflect their hopes and dreams for a safe community and ending the silent epidemic of drowning.”
As of now 12 such Child Parliaments were organized in different parts of Gosaba, Sagor, Namkhana, Kultoli, Canning, Minakhan, Hingalgaunj block. Around 800 children participated and shared their views in these to prevent child drowning. Series of events like Webinar (Meet the mini-stars), Rally, Advocacy meet, Training on CPR planned throughout the month maintaining strict covid protocol.
Dr. Samir Chudhuri further said, “Our mission is to ensure that children and adolescents achieve their rights to health, nutrition, education, protection and participation by making duty bearers and communities responsive to their well-being. Child parliament is one of our strong approaches to ensure child participation."
Drowning is a significant issue globally, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths and is among the top 10 leading causes of death for 5-14 year olds. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 236,000 drowning deaths worldwide each year, of which more than 60% occur in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific Region.
A key highlight of CINI and TGI’s work in India has been galvanising communities at the centre of drowning risk mitigation in the Sundarbans. A 2019 community-based survey conducted by Child in Need Institute (CINI) in collaboration with The George Institute in the Sundarbans region of West Bengal, India, reported that there are nearly 3 drowning deaths among 1-9 year old children each day.
A rural, forested region, Sundarbans’ children are exposed to a high risk of drowning due to the waterlogged geography. The Ganges delta region (in which the Sundarbans is located), also experiences frequent flooding of major rivers due to heavy monsoon rain during April-September. The survey findings shed light on the burden among this population, as well as highlighted the need for more accurate and effective data collection on drowning deaths, harnessing community knowledge and community-based surveys, a validated method transferrable to other rural low- and middle-income country contexts.
“There is no central mechanism to capture drowning related data and there is a gross underreporting. Further gains made in reducing infectious child deaths cannot be lost to drowning, one of the leading causes of death across the basin of Bengal. Interventions for safe places for pre-school children with structured supervision has a huge potential in reducing drowning, injuries and improving child development,” said Dr. Jagnoor Jagnoor, co–director, WHO Collaborating Centre on Injury Prevention and Trauma Care and Head, Injury, The George Institute, India.