WHO forms Global Alliance for Drowning Prevention

Published 27 July 2023

WHO forms global alliance

On World Drowning Prevention Day in Geneva on 25th July 2023, the World Health Organization launched the Global Alliance for Drowning Prevention. Royal Life Saving Society – Australia is honoured to have been selected to join the Alliance at its inception.

Sadly, every year drowning is the cause of more than 236,000 deaths, 2.5 million over the past 10 years. More than 90% of those drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Some countries in the Indo-pacific region experience drowning rates 20-25 times higher than those in Australia.

A central aim of the Global Alliance for Drowning Prevention is to accelerate drowning prevention efforts across UN agencies, Governments, and non-state actors.

WHO is joined by International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and UNICEF. Each brings the potential to integrate drowning prevention across sustainable development agendas.

Royal Life Saving Society – Australia is pleased to join other non-state actors, Royal National Lifeboat Institution UK; the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh; the George Institute for Global Health; and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Each brings an impressive track record.

Since its formation in 2005 the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh has been the frontline in the fight to address drowning in low- and middle-income contexts, giving global efforts important interventions like Anchals and SwimSafe.

Royal National Lifeboat Institution UK works across many countries, but perhaps its most critical role has been high level advocacy contributing to drowning prevention resolutions being adopted by the United Nations (2021) and World Health Assembly (2023).

Bloomberg Philanthropies is seeding national efforts in key countries including Bangladesh, Vietnam, Uganda, Ghana, India, and the United States.

The George Institute for Global Health has a vast network of inspiring and diverse research programs across many health themes including drowning.

For Royal Life Saving Society – Australia the Global Alliance has been a long-term aspiration.

Way back when the International Life Saving World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2011 was convened in Vietnam, we chose the theme of ‘building a global platform to reduce drowning’.

At the time more than 550 colleagues dreamed of the elevation of drowning prevention on the global health agenda, the scale-up of interventions, mobilisation resources and the creation of a partnership across United Nations agencies, governments, drowning prevention, water safety and lifesaving organisations, and donors.

The World Health Organization describes the Alliance acting as a semi-formal network of partners who will work together to coordinate, strengthen, enhance, and expand efforts to prevent drowning deaths, aligned with the priorities of the World Health Organization. The first task of the Alliance will be to develop a Global Strategy for Drowning Prevention.

Royal Life Saving Society – Australia is pleased to play a role.

We undertake to promote the capacities, passions, and resources of lifesaving groups across the globe. We commit to working with colleagues at Surf Life Saving Australia, and other groups across the Australian water safety community, to ensure we all contribute to the success of the Alliance.

Royal Life Saving Society - Australia takes this challenge seriously, and we trust that the Global Alliance for Drowning Prevention will lift us all into collective, collaborative, and collegial action, focused entirely on the interests of people and communities affected by drowning, all over the world.

The Alliance will be discussed further at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Perth, where it is likely that conference participants will have direct opportunities to contribute to the development of the Alliance and the strategy for drowning prevention. More information: www.wcdp2023.com

More information on WHO activities for drowning prevention can be found here: