Drowning Prevention Program

Finding solutions to a leading killer of children in Bangladesh and the Philippines

Low- and middle-income countries bear the greatest burden of drowning, accounting for over 90% of global drowning deaths. Half of all drowning deaths are among those under 25-years-old, with children under 5-years-old at a much higher risk of drowning. Many of these deaths can be prevented.

The Drowning Prevention Program focuses on two countries – Bangladesh and the Philippines.

In Bangladesh, drowning is the leading cause of death among children with 10,000 deaths per year, with 1 to 4-year-olds accounting for 65% of these drowning deaths. Studies show that most of these drowning deaths occur in small bodies of water, close to where children live, and particularly during hours when adults are working and children often go unsupervised.

To directly address these two major factors in preventable child drowning deaths – lack of supervision and easy access to water – the Drowning Prevention Program is testing two high-potential interventions among 80,000 1-4 year old children:


  • Daycare provided by village mothers to children under the age of 5
  • Locally manufactured playpens for children


The program will monitor 80,000 children over a two-year period and evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions – individually and combined – in preventing drowning deaths. Bloomberg Philanthropies is also working with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to use reliable data to demonstrate how we can address these risks.

In the Philippines, 4,000 people drown each year. Our partner World Health Organization is developing a program to identify a strategy to prevent drowning deaths, with plans to implement effective interventions in 2016.

Additionally, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported the 2014 Global Report on Drowning, published by the World Health Organization.

Three primary outcomes of the Drowning Prevention Program, include:


  • Identifying a cost-effective set of approaches to drowning prevention interventions that can be scaled-up in other low- and middle-income countries
  • Publishing a global report on drowning deaths to increase global advocacy and attention on the issue
  • Building a strong drowning prevention network through a small grants program in order to engage public health professionals and advocates who will be ready to participate in future drowning prevention efforts