Drowning is frighteningly the second cause of death and injury for children in the EU, the primary causes are inability to swim and alcohol induced poor supervision of children - particularly on holidays. “We must remember that children can drown in as little as two inches of water and they drown in silence,” warned Jim Higgins MEP this week.
Water is our most valuable and deadly resource. On average 150 people drown in Ireland each year. Most of these tragic deaths happen inland, in rivers or lakes, or around farms and homes.
“These accidents are completely preventable and usually stem from a lack of awareness of basic water safety principles. All too often water safety education is confined to sea bordering communities, this must clearly change.
“I have written to Minister Quinn proposing that water safety education be as prevalent in national schools as the 'safe cross code',” added Mr Higgins.
Adolescents under the influence of alcohol and males over the age of 65 are also in the high risk category thus highlighting the need for adult water safety courses.
Thankfully the average drowning figures in Ireland have decreased from 173 people in the late 1990s and early 2000s, despite the increased popularity of water sports. Mr Higgins commended the work of the Irish Water Safety Organisation and Simon Coveney who recently launched the 'Wearing a Lifejacket May Save Your Life'. “This is exactly the type of initiative that is needed, but we need to go even further in order to spread the water safety message to ordinary swimmers.”
Despite the recent reduction in drowning incidents our attention must remain with the 150 lives needlessly lost. “These deaths are 100 per cent preventable and everybody needs to assume responsibility to ensure that they are informed about water safety practices and that they in turn inform or responsibly supervise their children.
“I am calling for the introduction of powerful, strong, and graphic ads similar to those issued by the RSA so that the dangers of water are not ignored.”
Mr Higgins continued to emphasise that basic advice available online or from local swimming pools could save lives and help us ensure that we go further than the current 20 per cent reduction in drowning accidents.