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Drowning- a major cause of death among children
August 11, 2018, 4:59 pm

Drowning is a global epidemic. It may not fit within the traditional definition of an epidemic, but it warrants such a label. The World Health Organization (WHO) published a standalone report in 2014 outlining the dangers of this phenomenon — particularly as a leading cause of death for children. According to the report, drowning claims 372,000 lives per year with the majority of them being children. A key limitation behind these deaths is the lack of public understanding on the seriousness and frequency of this issue. This is partly due to the fact that data collection remains sparse and as such, contextualizing the urgency of this issue is quite difficult.

Locally, drowning has taken the lives of so many young children in Kuwait, and while no official statistics are available, several medical professionals and child’s-rights activists work to educate the public about this issue. Kuwait Child's Rights Society (KCRS) is a non-profit organization under Kuwait Medical Association that promotes the rights of children to have a healthy development and a safe environment.

According to KCRS, home safety is extremely important when you have young children. During summer, many parents do not realize that children may accidentally drown in swimming pools. KCRS vice-president Dr. Hind Almazeedi offered some tips for parents about pool safety based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

1) Children who are swimming should always be supervised by an adult at all times. Make sure the adult is not distracted by their mobile phone or laptop.

2) Swimming pools must have surrounding protective fences with a gate that automatically locks. Fence must be at least 4 feet high and gaps must be less than 4 inches. Latch of the gate must be at least 54 inches high.

3) Teach children not to run near pools.

4) Make sure there are no toys near the pool when it is not being used so that children do not play next to the pool.

5) Always check a swimming pool's depth yourself before children swim.

6) Use a pool alarm if possible.

Dr. Hanan Al Razzuqi, the President of KCRS and an Emergency Medicine Physician working for the Ministry of Health of Kuwait stated the following: “Due to the Kuwaiti environment being so hot and children’s outdoor activities being so limited, most of their activities are either indoor or involve water outdoors. Children start swimming at a very young age and are involved in various water activities. I have seen several cases of drowning at work. Unfortunately, some of them were extremely devastating and these are the ones that could have been easily preventable. I cannot state any data on prevalence as we do not have a trauma registry yet, but this is something we are working on.

In some of the cases I have seen, the child survives but there was one where he survived but ended up with brain damage due to prolonged hypoxia. One of the most memorable cases that I remember was of a young 7-year-old boy who was out with his family on a fishing trip, and he fell overboard. His family immediately noticed and went back to get him. But it was a windy day and it took them around 5 minutes to find him. The child wasn’t wearing a life jacket but according to his father, he knew how to swim. The waves were too strong for him and he ended up drowning. He was found by his father and immediately brought to the hospital.

When he arrived to the Emergency Department, he was pulseless; we tried to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful.  Breaking the news to his anxious family was one of the most difficult things I had to do. From a fun filled day to a tragic ending. Something that could have easily been prevented caused this family so much pain. I met the mother a few years later, and according to her, the death of her son has affected her family dynamics and she had to go through extensive therapy to be able to live a “semi-normal” life. All her children are now too afraid to go anywhere near the water, and her husband ended up quitting his job to seek treatment as he felt very guilty for losing his son.

In my opinion, more awareness campaigns regarding the issue would prevent such tragic accidents especially closer to the summer time. They would include ways to stay safe around water (using life jackets etc.), the importance of trained lifeguards in all public swimming pools, methods to keep home pools safe for toddlers and children. According to the WHO, campaigns regarding children should now be targeted towards them rather than the parents as they have been shown to be the most effective. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children and spreading awareness on the issue should be as important as spreading awareness on the importance of vaccinations.”

No child’s life should be lost over a cause that could have been prevented, we urge all readers to be mindful of their children’s behavior and activities around pools or the beach. There is no such thing as being too cautious when it comes to protecting the lives of our children.

To learn more about Kuwait Child’s Rights Society, please visit @kcrsgroup on Instagram and Twitter.

Nourah Al-Oseimi
Exclusive to The Times


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