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Turning the tide: ending the silent epidemic of child drownings in India

Campaign by George Institute for Global Health

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The reports published by WHO in April 2021, identify drowning as the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death. As per our research in the Sundarbans found that drowning is likely the biggest killer of children aged 1-4 years, with a mortality rate of 243.8 per 100,000 children. Our research also suggests that the under-5 child mortalities for rural West Bengal are estimated to be 243.8/100,000 children in the Sundarbans. A quarter of child drowning deaths were among children aged 1-2 years, 84% drowned within 50 meters of their homes, usually in ponds during their daily household chores, while those unaccompanied were 82%.


Implementing a solution with a ‘top-down’ approach will invariably fail. Community ownership and empowerment are critical for sustainable changes required to see real reductions in drowning deaths. This project envisages scaling up our approach in the Sundarbans areas of West Bengal, India an area prone to water-related disaster, with a similar risk of child drowning to Bangladesh. The intervention will lead to saving lives and co-benefits the community from drowning solutions which also enhance everyday life, providing children with an environment to safely play and thrive.

Our project centers on known evidence-based solutions and our learnings from implementing large scale programs in Bangladesh. It is well established that physically separating young children from the water, providing effective supervision, and teaching children swimming and water safety skills will prevent drowning.


This project will engage local communities through established collaborations to save children’s lives in the highest-burden areas of the project geography, by co-designing: locally relevant interventions for physically separating children under 3 years from water using physical barriers, including playpens, door barriers, or fencing supervision programs for children under 5 years that enroll and empower community women to provide community creches, and water safety programs that are culturally acceptable and inclusive with use of local language and preferred mediums by communities, such as street plays and use of folk tunes for engagement. Mechanisms of program implementation that prioritize community needs and capacities.

The primary beneficiaries of our project will be children aged under 5 years and their families, and communities in the intervention geography of India. We expect to engage approximately 2,600 children under 5 years with our work and 22,500 family and community members. As a result, we will avert at least 600 child drowning deaths and countless more “non-fatal drownings” of children aged under 5 years over the two- and a half--years project, reducing the child drowning rates in the priority areas in the project geography by 30-50%.


Additionally, the impact of this work will extend far beyond reductions in drowning risk. As demonstrated in our pilot project, the cooccurring capacity building, increased levels of employment, particularly among women, and educational and nutritional programs included in the creches transform the lives of whole communities. Apart from the lives saved, our project will deliver enriched, safe environments for children to play and thrive.

George Institute for Global Health

George Institute for Global Health

Beneficiary Charity

Joygopal Podder

Joygopal Podder


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