Childhood drowning, the Malaysian epidemic — Amar-Singh HSS

MARCH 18 — Seven boys aged 10 to 12 years drowned at Bukit Beruntung yesterday.

This could have been prevented.

The Perak Clinical Research Centre has conducted extensive research on drowning in children over many years. The key facts are:

  • 500 children drown every year in Malaysia.
  • This is the second commonest cause of death in children aged 1 to 18.
  • Half of these deaths are due to children trying to save other children.

Over the years we have communicated our data, reports and publications to the relevant government agencies, NGOs, media and tried to bring it to the attention of all parents. (Full report and publication available here and here.) 

Our data and efforts have helped to advocate for the setup of a National Drowning Safety Council and recently the establishment of a National Childhood Drowning Registry (at our CRC). However these messages have yet to reach our public. Every parent needs to know the size of this problem and more importantly this key message needs to be communicated to all children:

  • No child should attempt to save any other child who is drowning.
  • You are not a hero if you try and save someone who is drowning.
  • You are not a villain or a failure if you did not try to save someone who is drowning.
  • If you see someone who is drowning, you should call for an adult to help; don’t jump in yourself.

We could possibly reduce by half all childhood drowning in the country and save 250 children a year just with this message. It is important that all government agencies, schools, the media and parents disseminate this important message to all children. The media in particular must also refrain from praising a child as hero for saving another child who is drowning; it is a dangerous act for any child to do.

The loss of these children is a tragedy caused by all of us. We as a society are responsible for failing these children. Approximately 100 children have drowned so far this year; let’s not fail the 400 more children who are going to drown this year.

Let every parent speak to their children about this important cause of death and the key message of getting help and not jumping in.

* Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS is senior consultant paediatrician, head paediatric department, Hospital RPB Ipoh and head Clinical Research Centre Perak.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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