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$60 million new commitment from Michael Bloomberg to improve lives in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Uganda and Viet Nam
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$60 million new commitment from Michael Bloomberg to improve lives in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Uganda and Viet Nam

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the investment of an additional $60 million to scale proven solutions that are preventing drowning deaths and ensuring safer, healthier, longer lives in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Uganda and Viet Nam.

This investment also includes new efforts in the United States to support swim instruction and strengthen data collection to better understand the circumstances of drowning incidents in Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma and Texas – 10 states with high numbers of drowning deaths.

This brings Bloomberg Philanthropies total investment to $104 million globally through the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative to Prevent Drowning.

Drowning has taken more than 2.5 million lives over the last decade. This significant and preventable, yet often neglected, public health issue is also a matter of health equity. More than 90% of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with children under the age of five at higher risk. And in the United States, American Indian/Alaska Native and Black people less than 30 years of age have drowning rates about twice as high as white people.

“Despite drowning being a leading cause of death globally, drowning prevention initiatives lack government and philanthropic support,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, and 108th mayor of New York City. “Around the world, we’ve been working closely with governments and our partners for over a decade to establish data-driven solutions—and we’re now working to spread them around the world, to save more lives.”

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that drowning deaths are on the rise in the United States. Over 4,500 people drowned each year in the U.S. from 2020-2022, about 500 more drowning deaths per year compared to 2019. Groups already at higher risk saw the greatest increases, including young children and older adults of all races and ethnicities. American Indian/Alaska Native and Black people less than 30 years of age have drowning rates about twice as high as white counterparts. The report also found that over half of U.S. adults have never taken a swimming lesson.

“Drowning takes far too many lives in the United States and around the world,” said Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Medical Officer at U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “By investing in strong programs with state, local, and community partners, we can prevent these tragic deaths, particularly among those with the highest rates, such as young children.”

The Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative to Prevent Drowning uses data to identify the most vulnerable groups in countries with high drowning rates and funds local solutions to save lives. Some of the Initiative’s key impact to date and goals for the new funding are:

Bangladesh – Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4 in Bangladesh, according to the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey. In 2011, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB), and the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) to collect data on drowning deaths and found that children in community daycare were 88% less likely to drown. Given these findings, Bloomberg Philanthropies and partners developed a model to provide low-cost, community-based childcare for 55,000 children, while advocating for the government to fund and expand this proven approach. In March 2022, the Government of Bangladesh approved a three-year, $32 million development project in the national budget to fund the childcare sites and expand the program to serve 200,000 children each year. Bloomberg Philanthropies is providing technical support to the government as they roll out the expansion of their integrated childcare program.

Ghana – The CDC Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology conducted a Bloomberg Philanthropies-supported survey and estimated that 1,360 people died from drowning each year between 2019-2021 in Ghana. This equates to a rate of 4.4 drowning deaths per 100,000 people, much higher than existing estimates. The survey found that over 800 drowning deaths may be undercounted each year in Ghana. Bloomberg Philanthropies will support targeted interventions based on the data, including survival swim instruction.

India – Fifty-eight percent of drowning deaths in the Sundarbans region of West Bengal occur among children ages 1-2, with most drownings occurring in ponds within 50 meters of their homes. Bloomberg Philanthropies will support a statewide study in West Bengal to detail the burden and circumstances of drowning, which is the leading cause of death among children, and use the study’s findings to implement and measure the impact of interventions.

Uganda – A Bloomberg Philanthropies-supported study by the CDC Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Makerere University estimates 2,940 drowning deaths occur each year in Uganda and found that young adult males in lakeside districts are most at risk. This led Bloomberg Philanthropies to support interventions that could reduce drowning among fishermen by raising awareness of risks, developing and disseminating locally made floatation devices, and providing survival swim instruction.

United States – The U.S. reports over 4,500 unintentional drowning deaths each year and it is the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old. Bloomberg Philanthropies will support the CDC Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work in select, high-burden states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma and Texas – to provide instruction of basic swim and water safety skills in most affected populations, strengthen data and better understand the circumstances of drowning incidents, and review state-based legislation and policies that can prevent drowning.

Viet Nam – In 2017, 5,506 people died of drowning in Viet Nam, with drowning being the leading cause of death among children under 15, according to the Ministry of Health’s Statistic Yearbook. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ partners are providing survival swim instruction to children in the highest-burden districts and will continue to do so through 2025, while transitioning the provision of swim instruction to the government. More than 28,000 children across 13 provinces have passed a survival swimming course to date, and recent government commitments will help provide survival swim training to an additional 80,000 children across 17 provinces.

“By implementing effective preventive measures, increasing investments, and promoting awareness, we can save countless lives,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We applaud Bloomberg Philanthropies’ continued commitment to drowning prevention efforts and call on countries and partners around the world to join hands to make this urgent public health risk a global priority.”

“Drowning prevention interventions save lives, but there are gaps in our understanding of which interventions are most effective in communities at higher risk,” said Judy Monroe, MD, President and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “By growing our understanding of the circumstances of drowning and supporting evidence-based interventions, we have an opportunity to reduce the burden on families and the devastating impact of drowning for generations to come.”

“You can’t fix what you don’t understand. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ investment in drowning data collection in West Bengal, India will help us understand the extent and context of drownings in the state and inform interventions to combat one of the leading causes of death,” said Dr. Jagnoor Jagnoor, Program Lead, Injury Program at The George Institute for Global Health. “This is the first step towards preventing thousands of young lives from being cut short, causing heartbreak for their families. The findings will go a long way in catalyzing action for drowning prevention in the region.”

“Since 2018, the Viet Nam Child Injury Prevention Program, with a key focus on Drowning Prevention, has valued its partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies. We are strongly committed to supporting effective, proven drowning prevention interventions, including survival swim instruction for children 6-15,” said Dang Hoa Nam, Director General of Department of Child Affairs at Viet Nam’s Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs.

“Through Bloomberg Philanthropies’ support, we have accelerated saving the lives of children and implementation of the National Program on Child Injury Prevention, with the target of 50 percent of children aged 6-15 being able to swim by 2025.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 700 cities and 150 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people.

The organization focuses on creating lasting change in five key areas: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a philanthropic consultancy that advises cities around the world. In 2023, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3 billion.

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