That's the number of people the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate drown each year: more than 40 people per hour.

Every hour. Low- and middle-income countries account for more than 90% of this horrifying total, with the highest rates in the African, South-East Asian and Western Pacific regions. But drowning is among the ten leading causes of death among children and young people in every region of the world.

The WHO data is the best available, but drowning deaths go unreported in many countries so the picture is incomplete.

The actual number of deaths is likely to be even higher. The WHO's report calls for a substantial scaling-up of effort to prevent drowning, and outlines lifesaving actions that can be taken by national policy-makers and local communities. See

The IMRF wholeheartedly supports the WHO's call for action. "All too often," says Bruce Reid, IMRF Chief Executive, "Safety standards are too low or are ignored to make a living; safety information, such as weather forecasting, is not readily available; or people in trouble cannot raise the alarm when they get into difficulty, or do not have the survival equipment to keep them alive until help comes. And all too often there are no search and rescue facilities to help them: the IMO's Global SAR Plan is far from complete.

"We need improved data, to help us focus on the problems properly and, with our partners, implement really relevant responses. We need effective implementation of safety standards, so that accidents are fewer, and less deadly when they do occur. And we need good-quality SAR facilities. With these things, we can help reduce these appalling drowning figures. The challenge is there. It is up to everyone who can to take it up."

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020 estimates that 320,000 people drown every year.

Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.

Global estimates may significantly underestimate the actual public health problem related to drowning.

Many of these deaths could be prevented by improved maritime SAR services, which is why the work of the IMRF is so important.

Read more on the World Health Organization (WHO) Website.