World Drowning Report

TitleWorld Drowning Report
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2007
Corporate AuthorsInternational Life Saving Federation,
Date Published09/2007
InstitutionInternational Life Saving Federation


The International Life Saving Federation intends to publish its World Drowning Report on a regular basis. The report describes the magnitude of the burden of drowning based on best available data and modelled extrapolation.

ILS aims to increase the number of countries reporting drowning data in subsequent editions, and to encourage ongoing improvement in the quality and depth of data. The goal is to include, eventually, as many countries as possible.

ILS is prepared to provide the necessary advice and guidance to help member and non-Member Organisations and governments to develop reliable data collection programmes. The sharing and analysis of the data can assist and inspire optimal data collection and reporting methodologies worldwide. The ultimate goal is not merely to collect and report drowning data, but also to use the data to raise public awareness, to encourage and guide preventive initiatives, and to help ensure prevention efforts are effectively targeted.

ILS will share its World Drowning Report with interested individuals, organisations and governments to provide the basis for strategic interventions to reduce drowning and water-related incidents. Identifying risk factors will allow focused public health initiatives to reduce drowning. This greater understanding of the burden of this injury will allow more effective approaches to saving lives. ILS believes that research, education and action each add value in the attack on the world drowning problem.

The collection of data on drowning deaths is a very challenging task. The International Life Saving Federation is grateful to the World Health Organization which provided data, expertise and encouragement to work as partners in the reduction of drowning.

The collection of data on non-fatal incidents is a considerably more challenging objective. ILS will not only count the victims but also promote the use of cohort and case study to enhance our understanding of aquatic injury and rescues. ILS will use contemporary scientific strategies in focused areas where knowledge is weak or lacking, to advance our understanding where confidence intervals are wide.

This inaugural ILS World Drowning Report reviews the current statistical data and literature on drowning mortality, and it provides an overview of research from 16 countries with ILS Member Organisations.

The report provides insight into the best available information from leading organisations such as the World Heath Organization, along with a summary of information collected from countries where reliable data were available.

The report is a first step in an ongoing and periodic process of describing the worldwide drowning problem. Regular publication of subsequent editions of the ILS World Drowning Report is important in keeping the drowning problem at the forefront of the world’s attention.

The International Life Saving Federation is committed to its role as the world water safety experts. Counting victims does not save lives or reduce drowning – but it does allow us to provide effective prevention actions to the highest risk populations, locations and activities. The ILS World Drowning Report 2007 and subsequent editions will assist Member Organisations in deploying scarce resources against the most effective drowning intervention strategies. The ultimate goal is a meaningful reduction in the incidence of drowning worldwide.


In analysing who drowns, it is important to define drowning. This report uses the definition adopted by the 2002 World Congress on Drowning (Handbook on Drowning, “Definition of drowning”, page 46) (4). This is the same definition adopted by the World Heath Organization:
Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion / immersion in liquid.

Outcomes of drowning may be: death, morbidity, or no morbidity. In other words, a person may die from drowning; be injured by a drowning episode; or escape from drowning through rescue or other means.

The ILS World Drowning Report 2007 focuses on drowning that resulted in death, because death is the most reliably reported outcome and because mortality data tend to drive public health policy. The report includes only information from countries from which reliable data could be readily accessed. “Reliable” means data published or endorsed by national governments.

This report presents drowning data for the year 2002 from the WHO Global Burden of Disease database (GBD 2002, V5) – the most recent estimate available from WHO – and summary data from the 2005 ILS survey (which represents 2003 data).

Methodology – the data collection process

Data collection for the ILS World Drowning Report 2007 began with a survey of ILS Member Organisations to obtain an understanding of what data was available, how it was collected, and the key drowning issues within their jurisdictions. Data from 16 ILS member countries was accepted for this report. Many Member Organisations are doing excellent work in drowning prevention. Few are actively involved in the collection of drowning mortality data themselves or are aware of reliable sources for same. Some are recognised as a primary source for their county’s drowning data. Others were able to provide direction to sources of reliable data, typically produced by government. Most ILS Member Organisations were unable to help.

A subsequent consultation with the World Health Organization confirmed that reliable injury data are scarce, and that many countries do not report at all. In its 2003 Factsheet on drowning, WHO relied on estimation, extrapolations and models as well as other published literature on the issue to give a global picture.

Reliable data may be available from countries beyond those included in this report. Readers are encouraged to contact ILS with information that will expand future reports.