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March 6, 2014

Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit Launches Drowning Prevention Program in Bangladesh

The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit (JH-IIRU), long committed to reducing the burden of child injuries around the world, has announced that it is launching the Drowning Prevention Project in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies.  

The $10 million initiative will identify, implement and evaluate scalable drowning interventions in this low-lying South Asian country, where every day more than 32 children between the ages of 1 and 4, or more than 12,000 a year, die due to drowning, a preventable cause of death.

In fact, drowning is the leading cause of death for this age group in Bangladesh. While mortality rates of childhood diseases like diarrhea or malaria have decreased around the world, in large part due to disease prevention and nutritional interventions, the rate of child drowning has increased, especially in low-income countries like Bangladesh, because there has not been a similar investment in prevention.

As part of this project, JH-IIRU will work in collaboration with the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) and the Center for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB), to initiate the Saving of Lives from Drowning (SoLiD) in Bangladesh. SoLiD is an implementation study that has been established to test the effectiveness of two interventions to prevent and reduce the burden of childhood drowning in Bangladesh. The interventions will be implemented along with family education and community awareness on drowning prevention.

Adnan A. Hyder, MD, MPH, PhD, director of JH-IIRU, will lead a team that will directly address two major factors in preventable child drowning deaths in a country where 7% of its surface is covered in water—lack of supervision and easy access to water. The project will test two interventions: community daycare centers (sometimes referred to as “crèches” or “anchals”) playpens. Attendance in crèches during the period when drowning injury is most likely to occur reduces the risk of drowning by both supervising the child and removing the child from the hazard. Similarly, playpens, which will be locally manufactured, restrict child mobility, thus creating a barrier between the child and the hazard. They are also an aid to adult supervision, which, in turn, minimizes exposure to the risk of drowning. 

The goal of the project is to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions for 80,000 children, 1-4 years of age over a two-year period.  

“The rate of drowning for young children in Bangladesh is alarming,” said Hyder. “It is imperative that we explore the feasibility of appropriate and cost-effective drowning prevention interventions for child survival.”

 “This project represents a tremendous opportunity for continuing to improve child health care in Bangladesh and is a strong commitment to injury research,”said Olakunle Alonge, assistant scientist in JH-IIRU and program manager for SoLiD.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is also supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) to publish an evidence-based global report on drowning prevention later this year and provide expert guidance on effective strategies to combat this burgeoning epidemic and save thousands of lives.

The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit media contact: Bobbi Nicotera at 410-955-5877 or