The roundtable was held on the occasion World Drowning Prevention Day. This is the second time that this day is being observed worldwide.

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Speaking at the meeting, the health directorate's director (disease control) Professor Dr Md Nazmul Islam said most of the deaths by drowning are preventable. It is important to involve the local people in the matter. Once people feel that this prevention is their responsibility too, they will all spontaneously come forward to take care that the children of their areas remain safe. The government has begun this effort, albeit on a small scale. If all join together to play a strong role in this connection, we can reach our goal.

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Line director of the health directorate's non-contagious disease control (NCDC) department Prof. Dr. Md Robed Amin said, most of the deaths by drowning are not on record. Keeping this in mind, NCDC has drawn up the draft of a national strategy to prevent drowning. A framework will be drawn up to specify social awareness programmes, policies and laws, research and monitoring, skill development and inter-departmental cooperation to prevent drowning. This strategy will be linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

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Chairing the roundtable, CIPRB executive director Professor AKM Fazlur Rahman said, every moment of an infant's life is vital. People must be made to realise this and made conscious about preventing children from drowning. Drowning is a silent epidemic and a huge problem -- all efforts must be made to make people aware of this.

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Project lead of Drowning Prevention Partnership, Esha Husain, said not enough importance is given to deaths by drowning. And so it gets rather complicated when working on this issue, determining which ministry will take up various responsibilities in this regard. There is need for coordination in this regard.

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Deputy executive director of CIPRB, Dr Aminur Rahman, presented data concerning death by drowning. He said that 19,000 people died by drowning in the country annually. Of this, around 14,500 were below the age of 18. Of the children, 10,000 were under five years old. And 58 per cent of the deaths of children between 1 and 5 years old, occurred by drowning. Around 60 per cent of these deaths happen between 9 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon, when the mothers were busy with their work. The organisation has had effective results from two programmes -- 'Anchal', constituting area-wise daycare for children of 1 to 5 years, and 'Swimsafe' to teach swimming to children and rescue techniques. As a higher number of deaths by drowning take place in Barishal, another prevention programme for first aid has been added the two interventions through the 'Bhasha' project in three upazilas there.

Gowher Nayeem Wahra, convener of the Disaster Forum, said that attention must also be paid to the children who have been rescued from drowning. He said that after drowning, the deprivation of oxygen for two to three seconds has a negative impact on the infants. He said, from May till 15 July this year, 160 persons died by drowning. Of these, 137 were children. And 76 died in attempts to save others without knowing the proper methods of rescue. He said that there would be effective results in the local government and union parishad members could be included in the prevention efforts.

Secretary general of the National Alliance for Drowning Prevention (NADP), Prof. Abdul Jalil Chowdhury, said Bangladesh was the main initiator of the World Drowning Prevention Day. Various ways of prevention are being shown and if these are followed, effective results can be achieved. The media must play a role in mobilising public awareness about this issue which has not been given adequate attention.

Associate editor of Prothom Alo, Anisul Hoque, said, the persons involved in prevention of death by drowning can provide the media with details on what is to be asked from the policymakers, what the parents need to be told in order to raise their awareness, and then the media can act accordingly.

Vice chair of Bangladesh Early Childhood and Development Network, Mahmuda Akhter, said, the issue of preventing drowning is part of a child's early development, protection and health. And so various ministries and non-government organisations need to work together in this connection.

Country coordinator of Global Health Advocacy Initiative (GHAI), Ruhul Kuddus, said the SDG has no targets specifying deaths by drowning and other injuries. This should be added.

Representative of UNICEF Bangladesh's Child Protection Department, Sadrul Hasan Majumdar, said it would be possible to prevent deaths by drowning by following three factors -- keeping a watch on 1 to 5-year-old children, teaching children over 5 years old to swim, and learning the methods of first aid.

Ishaqul Kabir, national consultant for mental health, WHO Bangladesh, said this year WHO issue three directives regarding the prevention of drowning. The organisation will provide all-out assistance to those working in this regard.

In the opening remarks at the roundtable, Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayum said, it is quite easy to teach children how to swim. Teaching children to swim is giving them a new lease on life.

The event was moderated by Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Choudhury.

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