Planning minister assures to give priority to drowning prevention programme

Planning minister MA Mannan MP assured that his ministry would provide all-out support in the approval process of the national programme on drowning prevention developed by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs had. With a budget of around Tk 272 crore, which will enable institutional supervision of under-5 children through 8,000 community-based daycare centres, the proposal now waits for approval from ECNEC.

Minister for planning MA Mannan speaks at the event.

The minister was addressing in a national consultation on the role of media in preventing child drowning in Bangladesh held on 5 January 2022. SoMaSHTe-Society for Media and Suitable Human-communication Techniques organized the event under its Media Campaign for Preventing Child Drowning in Bangladesh, with the support of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI).

Chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on women and children affairs Meher Afroz MP, advisor to the former caretaker government and the executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) Rasheda K. Chowdhury, and country lead of GHAI Mohammad Ruhul Quddus, also addressed the occasion as special guests. The event was chaired by Professor Dr Golam Rahman, former chief information commissioner and editor of the Daily Ajker Patrika. High officials from media, journalists and CSO representatives attended the program.

Bangladesh has one of the highest under-five drowning rates globally. Drowning remains the dominant reason for child deaths in the country; a media monitoring report revealed that 53 per cent or more of drowning deaths go unreported in the media. Eighty per cent of children under five drowned within 20 meters of the family home, adding that lack of adequate supervision results in 70 per cent of deaths among under-five children.

Meher Afroz delivers her speech at the programme.

Meher Afroz MP highlighted the necessity for collaboration among different ministries in reducing incidents of children dying by drowning.” Creating awareness among people through community-level interventions could play an essential role in reducing deaths of children in drowning, she added.

While emphasizing the establishment of daycare centres, Rasheda K Chowdhury said, “In rural areas, our women do not get any helping hand to do household chores. They need to do everything by themselves. Therefore, the government should focus on introducing facilities such as daycare centres at a minimum cost in rural areas to prevent deaths caused by drowning.”

Experts at the program said that drowning was largely preventable through installing barriers, controlling access to water bodies, providing safe places away from water for pre-school children, and ensuring proper childcare. Measures such as giving swimming lessons, water safety and safe rescue skills could also come in handy in this regard. They said that training on safe rescue and resuscitation and strengthening public awareness were some other solutions.

At the event, the planning minister also distributed crests and certificates to three reporters, Nilima Jahan, staff reporter of The Daily Star, Zahidur Rahman, staff reporter of the Daily Samakal, and Partha Shankar Saha, senior reporter of the daily Prothom Alo, for their reports on child drowning issues, under a fellowship of SoMaSHTe.