Child drowning prevention in flood regions of the Mekong Delta: Knowledge, perceptions and experiences of Vietnamese families

TitleChild drowning prevention in flood regions of the Mekong Delta: Knowledge, perceptions and experiences of Vietnamese families
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsChinh, DV, Ngo, A, Barss, P
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published05/2011
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationDanang, Vietnam
Other Numbers000


Drowning is a frequent occurrence in the Mekong delta, especially during annual flooding. Children account for as many as three-quarters of victims. Most are 1–4-year-old toddlers of rural low-income families living in houses around canals and rivers. To better understand the knowledge, experiences, and prevention of child drowning, a household survey of families was undertaken and data on child drowning victims obtained from two districts.


A cross-sectional survey was undertaken by trained interviewers in October–November 2003 in two high-risk drowning communes in An Giang Province of the Mekong delta, Phu Huu 10,000 population and Thanh My Tay, nearly 20,000. Each commune was divided into subpopulation villages, and half of the villages randomly selected. First households were randomly selected in each village and subsequent households by door-to-door method; numbers were selected proportional to village size. In each commune 100 households were interviewed. Data on 52 drownings of 0 to 10-years-olds were obtained from district committees.


Response was 96%. 85% were farmers. Boats were the main transport and 65% of households had one. Drowning was the most frequently reported concern regarding children in the flood season, 74%. The cause was reported as carelessness of caregivers by 80%. While 78% stated children under five years were at highest risk, 94% felt lack of swimming ability to be the main cause of drowning and 99% that swimming teaching was a necessary protective measure. Family do the teaching for 92%. For children five to 10-years old, 42% could swim. Only 24% of homes with children under five had a fence. When parents were working, 90% of children were left at home with adults and 6% at child keeping houses. 80% felt that local authorities were not sufficiently concerned about drowning and 70% that they should do more. 76% had received information about drowning; television and radio were preferred sources. 68% were unaware of first aid for drowning. Of 52 child drownings, 80% involved 0–4-year-olds and the remainder 5–10-year-olds. Carelessness was cited as the cause for 81%.


Although nearly all people believed that swimming ability should be the main preventive measure for child drowning, most victims were toddlers under five. While most houses were near water, the majority did not have fencing and of those that did many barriers were not strong enough to keep children out of the water. Child care was too expensive for many families. Local authorities should consider means of subsidising effective childproof fencing and self-closing self-latching gates as well as child care away from water for small children. For older children, regional programmes of swimming and water safety training should be developed.