Childhood mortality due to drowning in rural Matlab of Bangladesh: magnitude of the problem and proposed solutions

J Health Popul Nutr. 2007 Sep;25(3):370-6.


Drowning is an important cause of mortality among children in rural Bangladesh. Children aged 1-4 year(s) are at a high risk of death from drowning. Although deaths of children due to drowning in Bangladesh are acknowledged as an important cause of death, little effort has been made to address the issue of preventing deaths from this cause. This study has attempted to describe the problem and suggests possible prevention strategies, which may contribute to reducing childhood mortality from drowning. Data presented in this study were collected from Matlab where ICDDR,B has been maintaining a demographic surveillance since 1966. During the study period from 1985 to 2000, 989 deaths from drowning were reported, of which 796 (80.5%) were children in the age-group of 1-4 year(s), 48 (4.8%) were in the age-group of less than one year, and 145 (14.7%) in the age-group of 5-19 years. During 1985-2000, death rate per 1,000 children due to all causes among children of 1-4-year age-group decreased appreciably from 20.7% to 5.2%, while drowning-related deaths did not. Forty-five percent (n = 359) of drowning-related deaths occurred in ponds, 16.8% (n = 134) in ditches, 8.1% (n = 64) in canals, and 4.4% (n = 35) in rivers. The sites of more than 25% of drowning-associated deaths were not recorded. Analysis of seasonal variation revealed that most deaths due to drowning occurred during April-October, i.e. mostly during the monsoon months. It was also observed that the majority (67%) of mothers of victims had no formal education. Deaths due to drowning were mostly associated with children aged 1-4 year(s) and were 20% more common among boys than among girls (odds ratio = 1.2, 95% confidence interval 1.04-1.38, p < 0.012). The paper recommends some interventions to reduce the number of deaths due to drowning in rural Bangladesh, which include: (a) increasing awareness among mothers and close family members about the risk of drowning, (b) door-fencing, and (c) filling of unused ditches and water holes around households.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Bangladesh / epidemiology
  • Cause of Death*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drowning / epidemiology*
  • Drowning / mortality*
  • Drowning / prevention & control
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Seasons
  • Sex Distribution