Definition of Drowning

The World Congress on Drowning defines drowning as “the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid.” Drowning can be broken down into 3 classifications: Death, Morbidity, and No Morbidity.

Drowning Statistics

According to the World Health Organization:

  • Every hour of every day more than 40 people lose their lives to drowning.
  • 372,000 lives are taken every year worldwide 
  • Over 90% of these deaths occur in LMIC’s (Low-and Middle-Income Countries)

WHO Drowning Numbers

But the global problem is far worse than that. Those figures do not include data from 66 countries. They also exclude drownings due to floods, cataclysms, boating accidents and water transport mishaps. Drownings in rural areas are rarely reported because victims never make it to where the data is collected — the hospital. It’s important to note the limitation of drowning statistics. The collection of drowning data is not universally collected or classified mainly due the sheer nature of drowning.

The International Life Saving Federation, the global authority on drowning, estimates there is 1,200,000 drowning deaths annually.

Over the last 20 years, large scale community surveys were completed in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam in collaboration with The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC), UNICEF, and many supporting agencies.

The primary finding was that death from injury was vastly under-estimated because the children affected never saw a health professional of any kind. This is particularly true for the one of the biggest causes of death in children: drowning. As health professionals are the primary statistical source, this means these deaths were not being captured in the existing information gathering systems used by government agencies to identify areas of need.

From these surveys we know that some 250,000 – 450,000 children drown each year in Asia Pacific alone.

Children Drowning

Australia: average .14 drownings per day

USA: average 1.2 drownings per day

Cambodia: average 6 drownings per day

Bangladesh: average 50 drownings per day

Drowning Risks

Lack of Awareness & Education

Prevention is vital. Prevention starts with awareness and education. We must conquer the fear of water before we can ever learn how to swim. This is at the root of why humans don’t learn to swim even in countries like Sweden and the United States.

Barriers of Protection

People in LMIC’s interact with water very differently to those in high- income areas. Less than half the people on Earth have plumbing. They must obtain water from a natural source to drink, wash, cook, and clean making it inherently more dangerous and risky.

Distracted Drowning

Proper supervision is key, no matter where you live. Supervised child care programs have shown to be successful in preventing drownings. There is no substitute for supervision. Smartphones have become a real distraction leading to poor supervision and ultimately tragedy.


Lack of Safe Transportation

Poorly maintained vessels, overcrowding, and a lack of wearing PFD’s leads to tens of thousands of drownings each and every year. Life jackets only work if you put them on. Setting and enforcing legislative regulations is critical.


Flood Disasters

Living near areas prone to flooding dramatically increases the risk of drowning. A lack of infrastructure and transportation makes evacuation cumbersome in many parts of the world. A recent United Nation’s report estimates 2.3 billion people were affected by floods over the last decade.

Drinking & Drowning

Alcohol consumption has been directly linked to adult drowning deaths.

We need your help.

Here's how you can get involved.