KUCHING: Drowning is the second most common cause of death for Malaysian children aged one to 18, with 500 children drowning nationwide annually.
National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) advisor Datuk Dr Amar-Singh said half of these deaths are due to children trying to save other children.
“Perak Clinical Research Centre (CRC) has conducted extensive research on drowning in children over many years. The message is clear – no child should attempt to save any child who is drowning,” he said in a press statement yesterday.
“Over the years, we have communicated our data, reports and publications to the relevant government agencies, NGOs (non-governmental organisations), media and tried to bring it to the attention of all parents.”
Dr Amar-Singh was commenting on the tragic case at Bukit Beruntung, Rawang in Selangor, where five boys aged nine to 12 drowned after falling into the river while fishing from a bridge. As at press-time, two others, aged 10 and 12, are still missing, and only one of the group managed to swim to safety.
Dr Amar-Singh, who is also senior consultant paediatrician and Paediatric Department head at Hospital RPB Ipoh, and the Perak CRC head, said the incident could have been prevented.
He said data and efforts have helped to advocate for the setup of a National Drowning Safety Council and the recent establishment of a National Childhood Drowning Registry at the Perak CRC.
“However, these messages have yet to reach our public. Every parent needs to know the size of this problem and more importantly this key message needs to be communicated to all children – no child should attempt to save any other child who is drowning. You are not a hero if you try and save someone who is drowning. You are not a villain or a failure if you did not try to save someone who is drowning. If you see someone who is drowning, you should call for an adult to help; don’t jump in yourself,” he stressed.
Dr Amar-Singh said childhood drowning cases in the country could be reduced by half with just this message, calling on all government agencies, schools, the media, and parents to disseminate it.
“The media in particular must also refrain from praising a child as a hero for saving another child who is drowning; it is a dangerous act for any child to do,” he warned.
He said that the loss of the children is a tragedy and society is responsible for failing them, adding some 100 children have already drowned this year.
“Let’s not fail the 400 more children who are going to drown this year. Let every parent speak to their children about this important cause of death and the key message of getting help and not jumping in,” he added.