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Preschool Drownings are Preventable

18 January 2006
Media Release

For immediate release

Preschool Drownings are Preventable

Last year nine preschool children (aged 0-5 years) drowned in New Zealand. More than double the toll for 2004. Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) released further comparative analysis of the drowning statistics for 2005 with a statement on the concerning high preschool drowning toll.

Drowning is the second highest cause of accidental death amongst preschool children in New Zealand. Preschool children are consistently being exposed to the dangers of water through a lack of supervision, typically whilst in the home. The bath and home pool are the most “at risk” sites for drowning in this age group.

WSNZ Project Manager Matt Claridge says, ”The major reason for such a devastating drowning toll is a lack of supervision of infants and young children in and around water. It is imperative that caregivers ensure uncompromised care and attention is given while infants and children are at home, whether in the bath, by putting the bucket of soaking clothes on a bench, and making sure all entry points to the swimming pool or spa pool are secure."

Comparison of the preschool drowning toll to that of our Australian counterparts reveals undeniable facts. On a per capita basis (per 100,000 population) twice as many preschool children drown in New Zealand than Australia.

Claridge continues “this is startling when we all know that the climate in Australia is more conducive to being around water, we know for certain that there are far more home pools than in New Zealand, but year after year the cold hard truth about our aquatic culture is revealed. New Zealand parents are not supervising their children around water, especially when at home.”

On average 11 preschool children drown every year (last five years) in New Zealand. The number that have drowned in home pools has declined and with the work being undertaken to develop a Pool Safety Standard there appears to be a consistent engineering approach to preventing drownings in this area. Water safety experts and Plunket are still confused as to why parents continue to leave their children unattended in the bath or under the supervision of young siblings.

Claridge states “WSNZ is committed to reducing drownings in the preschool age group by targeting parents with the unique supervision messages specific to water, as well as further developing Early Childhood Education kits to be available in Kohanga Reo and Early Childhood Centres. All preschool drownings are preventable. Why do we continue to accept these tragedies as accidents?”

WSNZ has further invested in a professional development tool for swim instructors ensuring that they are best equipped to work with the developmental needs of preschool children. The value of Infant and Preschool Water Confidence lessons for young children to explore and discover the water along with learning valuable water safety skills is immeasurable. WSNZ encourages all parents to be involved with their children in the water for both the development of core life skills and enjoyment.


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