National Water Safety Forum


Press release Saturday, July 24, 2021


National Water Safety Forum welcomes UN’s Drowning Prevention Day


The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), a network of more than 50 organisations who work together in order to reduce water-related deaths and associated harm in the UK, welcomes the first World Drowning Prevention Day which will be marked on Sunday, July 25.


World Drowning Prevention Day was instigated following a UN General Assembly resolution passed in April 2021, which affirmed the fact that drowning is preventable, and stresses the need for member states to have a coordinated response. The awareness day will be held annually on July 25.


According to figures compiled by the World Health Organisation, globally, an estimated 235,600 people drown every year, and drowning is among the ten leading causes of death for children aged 5-14 years around the world. 


Commenting on the eve of the first World Drowning Prevention Day, Dawn Whittaker, NWSF chair, said: “Tomorrow, individuals and organisations from across the globe will be marking the first World Drowning Prevention Day and speaking with one voice to say that anyone can drown, but no one should.


I know I speak for all members of the National Water Safety Forum when I say that I welcome the UN resolution on drowning prevention and this new awareness-raising day which is all the more poignant because of the recent spike in accidental drownings during the hot weather this month. I look forward to seeing the impact of World Drowning Prevention Day in the years to come.”


The latest figures from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the NWSF, show that in 2020 there were 254 accidental drownings and 631 total water-related fatalities in the UK.


Last year, almost half (43 per cent) of those who accidentally drowned had no intention to enter the water, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide, or being swept in by waves.  Inland open waters, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading locations for accidental drowning with 58 per cent of incidents taking place in these settings.


The UK has a drowning prevention strategy, with equivalents for Wales, and Scotland, which aims to reduce accidental drowning fatalities as well as contributing to the reduction of water-based suicide. The strategy was produced by members of the National Water Safety Forum including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).


Carlene McAvoy, leisure safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said: “Since the launch of the National Drowning Prevention Strategy in 2016, great strides have been made towards to reducing fatal water incidents in the UK. However, 254 people accidentally drowned last year which demonstrates there is still a lot more work to be done.


“RoSPA will continue to support the National Water Safety Forum and combine our efforts to help keep people safe on, and near, the water through the ‘Respect the Water’ campaign. World Drowning Prevention Day provides an unmissable opportunity to share life-saving water safety messages, but also gives us the chance to reflect on the progress made to reduce the number of accidental drownings in the UK, as well as allowing us to consider what further action needs to be taken.

The public are also reminded to ‘float to live’ if they find themselves getting into trouble in the water and to follow these steps: lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety. 


If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999.  If you are at the seaside ask for the coastguard, if you are inland, ask for the fire service.

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