PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
25 July 2023
World Drowning Prevention Day
Dr. David Meddings, Department of the Social Determinants of Health, at the World Health Organization (WHO), reminded that the first World Drowning Prevention Day had been marked in 2021. Drowning remained a major – and overlooked – global public health problem: 236,000 people died from drowning every year, which added to over 2.5 million deaths in the last decade, of which over 90 per cent had been in low- and middle-income countries.
Drowning could be prevented, stressed Dr. Meddings, and the WHO had published extensive guidance around interventions to prevent drowning. Interventions to prevent drowning included teaching school age children basic swimming skills and providing day care for pre-school children along with other interventions.
In 2023, the World Health Assembly (WHA) had adopted its first ever resolution on drowning, which had formally accepted the invitations in the UNGA resolution to WHO to coordinate action in the UN system on drowning and to facilitate observance of World Drowning Prevention Day. The WHA resolution had also called on the WHO to establish a global alliance for drowning prevention, and to prepare a global status report on drowning.
Dr. Meddings informed that today, the WHO was establishing the Global Alliance for Drowning Prevention, to be hosted by the WHO and be comprised of four other UN agencies: FAO, IMO, UNDP, and UNICEF, as well as five non-State actors, all of which had been actively engaged in drowning prevention at the global level for several years. Multisectoral approach to address this challenge was necessary, he stressed. WHO was also well underway with the preparation of its first ever Global Status Report on Drowning and aimed to launch this report in November 2024.
Today, the WHO was also launching its first ever investment case on drowning, which looked at scaling up two interventions in 50 low- and middle-income countries with the highest burden from drowning. These interventions were: providing day-care for pre-school children, and teaching school-age children basic swimming skills. By 2050, the two drowning prevention interventions could potentially save the lives of over 774 000 children and prevent close to one million nonfatal child drownings. In terms of economic benefits, these smart investments could cumulatively yield around USD 9 for every dollar invested, concluded Dr. Meddings.
Responding to questions, Dr. Meddings explained that living and working in and near water increased risks of drowning. Transport on and over water was another factor risk; in many places, children were transported to schools by waterways. Over 75 percent of mortality in floods were due to drownings, informed Dr. Meddings. He said that in southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific region most victims were very young children; in east Africa, many drownings also occurred among young adult males, often fishermen.
Transporting oil from FSO Safer
Replying to questions from the media, Sarah Bel, for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), informed that a dedicated briefing on this topic would be held in New York today, at 5 p.m. Geneva time. She said that the transfer of oil from FSO Safer off the coast of Yemen had just commenced, and extreme caution was needed. A spill would devastate fishing communities along the Yemen coast, wiping out 200,000 livelihoods. The oil could reach any country on the Red Sea, and the environmental impact would be severe; fish stock would take 25 years to recover. This was the first time that the UN had got involved in such an operation, said Ms. Bel.
Black Sea Initiative
Replying to questions, Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that all efforts were being made to bring Russia back into the Black Sea Initiative. Rolando Gómez, for the UN Information Service (UNIS), added that the UN was continuing with its efforts to bring the deal back, and reminded that the Secretary-General had urged Russia to return to the Initiative.
Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that COVID-19 and mpox review committees were meeting this week. Back in May, both COVID and mpox had been declared to no longer be public health emergencies, but the experts continued to look into preparing and issuing standing recommendations, which were expected to be published the following week.
Rolando Gómez, for the UN Information Service (UNIS), informed that the Secretary-General had been in Rome to attend the Food System Summit; his statement is available here. The Secretary-General was returning to New York today, while the Deputy Secretary-General would be arriving to Rome today, and she would close the Summit on 26 July.
Human Rights Committee would end its 138th session on 26 July, at 3 p.m. During the session, the Committee had reviewed reports submitted by Brazil, Burundi, Colombia, Cyprus, Lesotho, State of Palestine, and Uganda. The Committee’s concluding observations regarding these reports would be published on the session webpage. The same day, at 1:30 p.m., the Committee would hold a hybrid press briefing to present findings on the countries reviewed.
On 27 July 2023 at 3 p.m., there would be a hybrid briefing by the World Health Organization (WHO), under embargo until 31 July at 12:30 p.m., to present its Report on the global tobacco epidemic. Speakers would be Dr. Ruediger Krech, WHO Director for Health Promotion; Dr. Kelly Henning, Public Health Lead, Bloomberg Philanthropies; and Dr. Kailesh Kumar Singh Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness of Mauritius.