Water safety stakeholders have offered insights on how to enhance operations as drowning cases escalate in coastal cities. The stakeholders also canvassed collaborative efforts to drive campaign for water safety.
They spoke at a Roundtable in Lagos organised by Bridging Acquatics to mark this year’s Drowning Prevention Day, calling on strategic partners to engage in campaign and advocacy on drowning prevention to achieve its desired goal.
The organizer, a global consultancy and socio-economic development firm, is highly sought after by governments, global institutions and corporations for its pioneering leadership and expertise in the field of water safety, drowning prevention and aquatic participation for socio-economic development specifically for Africa, Caribbean and Asian communities.
Speaking on ‘Tackling Public Health Hazard of Drowning in Nigeria’, Femi Olugbile, who was the guest speaker, lamented the alarming rate of drowning across Nigeria, citing June 2023 when a boat carrying 250 people across River Niger in Kwara State had an accident as they were returning home from a late-night wedding.
The boat hit a log of wood and broke apart, leading to the death of 108 most of them women and children while the rest were rescued.
“In the same month of June 2023 medical students from universities all across Nigeria met in Calabar for their annual convention, which was hosted by the Students’ Medical Association of the University of Calabar. At the conclusion of their meeting, some of the students were offered the chance to go on a boat cruise to explore their maritime host city.
“Along the way, their speedboat capsized. Two medical students from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and one medical student from University of Uyo drowned. Their bodies were later recovered by the police,” Olugbile recalled.
Continuing, he said, “early in the morning on Monday, February 20, 2023, a commercial passenger ferry named Fazma Logistics, loaded with 17 passengers left Ikorodu ferry terminal, enroute Ebute Ero. Near the Third Mainland Bridge, close to Bariga, it capsized. All the passengers were rescued alive.”
Relating this to national and global perspectives, Olugbile quoted World Health Organisation (WHO) as saying that there were 6,584 deaths from drowning in Nigeria in 2020. These were 0.44 per cent of total deaths in the world.
The age-adjusted Death Rate from drowning is 2.17 per 100,000 of the population. Nigeria is ranked 107 in the world on the basis of frequency of drowning incidents.
Disclosing the burden of drowning deaths on families and society, he noted that there was a heavy burden in terms of human misery, social dislocation, and economic consequences following every drowning incident. A parent who loses a child to drowning carries a load of suffering that may endure throughout a lifetime.
On global initiative to prevent drowning, he stated that the World Drowning Prevention Initiative was spreading to ever-increasing number of countries across the world, adding that it was being celebrated for the first time in Nigeria this year with the theme ‘Do One Thing to Prevent Drowning’.
“The intention clearly is to spread the message to all the nooks and crannies of every country, and to generate action from governments as well as the public at large. The initiative, championed by Bridging Aquatics in Nigeria, will bring the problem to the forefront of public attention as a public health hazard that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Speaking on the need to prevent drowning in Nigeria, Africa and Asia, Danielle Obe, CEO, Bridging Aquatics, London, said it has become imperative for stakeholders to come together to fight the alarming rate of drowning in Nigeria.
Lamenting the alarming rate of drowning in Africa and Asia, Danielle said “each year, an underestimated 372, 000 people die from drowning. Over 90 per cent of these in Africa and Asia. More than 50 per cent of these deaths are under age 25, with children aged under five facing the greatest risk. “Nigeria has the highest estimated number of drownings in Africa at 27,000 deaths per year.”