It was a great pleasure for me to welcome delegates to the World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2011 in Da nang, Vietnam.
According to statistics from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF drowning is the major cause of preventable child injury death in Vietnam. In 2006 alone, it is estimated that over 3,800 children aged 0-19 died from drowning in this country. The next highest cause of death was traffic accidents (over 1800). And these are conservative estimates.
Drowning, especially amongst children, is both tragic and costly. It leaves terrible scars on the families and other left behind for many years. And it is costly in terms of the opportunities lost and potential unfulfilled for society and the nation. But it is wholly preventable in many or most cases.
The Australian Embassy in Vietnam and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), was proud to support the conference to bring together policy makers, medical professionals, swimming and survival experts, researchers and lifesavers, NGOs and others to discuss how governments and communities can better prevent drowning and its terrible human and economic cost.
The Australian Government has for many years supported a variety of programs in Vietnam - and in other developing countries - to build resilience in the face of storms and flooding that occur annually, especially in the Central Region of the country and in the Mekong Delta. We are proud to work with the Government of Vietnam and community based organisations, both domestic and international, to fund programs for community based disaster risk management, survival swimming and post-flood recovery. In particular, we recognise the work of the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, The Alliance for Safe Children and the International Life Saving Federation and are pleased to be funding partners with them for the SwimSafe Danang program. The collaboration and engagement of the Government of Vietnam, through the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has been invaluable.
Climate change is having a growing impact on all our lives, especially in developing and emerging countries most vulnerable, including Vietnam. The growing frequency, intensity of unpredictability of storms and floods will make preparing to prevent drowning an even more urgent priority.