Bangladesh facing ‘epidemic’ of child drownings

Special Crisscrossed with rivers and canals, Bangladesh has one of the world’s highest drowning rates for under-fives. (Photo by Munir uz Zaman / AFP)
Crisscrossed with rivers and canals, Bangladesh has one of the world’s highest drowning rates for under-fives. (Photo by Munir uz Zaman / AFP)
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Updated 11 February 2022

Bangladesh facing ‘epidemic’ of child drownings

Bangladesh facing ‘epidemic’ of child drownings
  • Dozens of Bangladeshi under-5s drown daily with incidents thought to have doubled during COVID-19 lockdown period

DHAKA: It was a late December morning when Fahima Akhter saw her youngest son for the last time. Two-year-old Omar Faruque was in front of the family home, playing with his cousins. His mother had been watching him but became distracted by household chores. Minutes later, the youngster had disappeared.

“I live in a joint family with my in-laws. It’s a 10-member family. There were some other family members in the yard also,” Akhter told Arab News. “No one noticed when little Faruque suddenly disappeared and walked to a nearby pond. It’s a five-minute walking distance for a toddler. While cooking in the kitchen, I heard a loud noise as if something fell into the water.”

She rushed to the pond only to find her son’s body floating in the water.

“We could have prevented the drowning of Faruque if we had built a fence on the way to the pond. It was a very costly lesson and irreparable loss,” she said.

Akhter is one of thousands of Bangladeshi parents to have lost children to unintentional drowning last year. Crisscrossed with rivers and canals, Bangladesh has one of the world’s highest drowning rates for under-fives.

Dr. Aminur Rahman, deputy executive director at the Center for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh, estimated that the number of incidents could have more than doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, as lockdowns had forced many daycare centers to close.

“Earlier also the drowning of children was like an epidemic,” he said. “But it was increased during COVID days since schools were closed and children remained unguarded in many cases.”

The latest government data, compiled in 2016, showed that more than 30 toddlers had drowned in Bangladesh every day. While no nationwide survey has been conducted for the past six years, the injury prevention center last year recorded 19 child drowning deaths only among the kids attending its nurseries in two districts of the southern Barisal region. “Before COVID-19, the number was seven,” Rahman added.

A recent study by Somashte, a Bangladeshi media monitoring NGO, also showed a sharp increase in drowning incidents involving children aged below five. Based on newspaper reports, it estimated the number had more than doubled since 2020.

Little has been done to address the situation since the 2016 national survey revealed the scale of the problem.

“Since 2016, we didn’t do much to prevent the drowning of the children,” Rahman said, adding that efforts should be made to start building fences around bodies of water.

“It will help a lot in reducing the drowning incidents among children.”

He said programs to teach lifesaving techniques should also be introduced throughout the country.

“I have noticed most of the drowning victims are brought dead to healthcare centers in remote areas of the country as it takes several hours to transport the patients,” Rahman added. “If cardiopulmonary resuscitation could be given to the victims immediately after the rescue, many lives could have been saved.”

Authorities say they are planning to launch a pilot scheme for drowning prevention this year.

“After pneumonia, drowning is the main cause of our children’s deaths below the age of five. So, we want to eradicate this problem from the country,” Mohammed Tariqul Islam Chowdhury, early childhood development specialist at the Bangladesh Shishu Academy, the national academy for children that will be implementing the program, told Arab News.

“We have been working on this project since 2018. Now everything is at the final stage. We are expecting to receive approval for the three-year project from the executive committee of the National Economic Council at any time this month.”


Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London

Updated 8 sec ago

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London

Man charged with new woman’s killing on streets of London
LONDON: A man was remanded in custody Wednesday after appearing in a London court charged with the murder and attempted rape of a woman who had been walking home alone in east London.
It was the latest in a string of similar incidents that have heightened concern over the safety of women and girls on the British capital’s streets.
Jordan McSweeney, 29, is charged with the murder of 35-year-old Zara Aleena, who was attacked after a night out in Ilford in the early hours of Sunday.
McSweeney, who is also charged with attempted rape and robbery, spoke only to confirm his name and details during a brief hearing at the Thames Magistrates’ Court.
In a statement, Aleena’s family mourned her death and called for an end to violence against women. They highlighted the killings of other women who were targeted by strangers in London and elsewhere.
The family expressed sympathy to the families of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and others who were killed in recent months and whose deaths prompted widespread protests calling for more protection for women and girls.
The family said Aleena, a law graduate who was training to become a lawyer, “walked everywhere” and “believed that a woman should be able to walk home.”
“Sadly, Zara is not the only one who has had her life taken at the hands of a stranger. We all know women should be safe on our streets. She was in the heart of her community, 10 minutes from home,” their statement said.
Police said Aleena suffered serious head injuries, confirmed in a post-mortem examination.
McSweeney was denied bail and remanded in custody until he is due to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court on Jul. 27.
A march remembering Aleena is planned in Ilford on Saturday.

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid
Updated 5 min 24 sec ago

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid

Japan’s Kishida backs Sweden’s NATO bid
  • Japan hopes to strengthen its relations with Sweden further as partners sharing basic values, Kishida added.

MADRID: Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio on Wednesday expressed support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO in a meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, on Wednesday.
“We support (Sweden’s) historic decision. We also express our respect for its efforts,” Kishida told Andersson.
NATO, which opened a two-day summit in Madrid on Wednesday, is expected to grant membership to Sweden and Finland after Turkey switched to support their participation.
Kishida said that Japan and Sweden will hold the presidency of the Group of Seven major powers and the European Union, respectively, next year.
Japan hopes to strengthen its relations with Sweden further as partners sharing basic values, Kishida added.
Andersson expressed gratitude for Japan’s strong action against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.


Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
Updated 29 June 2022

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand

Russian court lets opposition figure’s jail term stand
  • The decision by the Moscow City Court came one day after Ilya Yashin was sentenced

MOSCOW: A court in Moscow on Wednesday rejected a prominent Russian opposition figure’s appeal of the 15-day jail sentence he received on charges of failing to obey police.
The decision by the Moscow City Court, the capital’s highest municipal judicial body, came one day after Ilya Yashin was sentenced.
Yashin, who has publicly criticized Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, was detained late Monday in a Moscow park. Police said he grabbed an officer by his uniform and insulted police, which Yashin denied.
In May, Yashin was ordered to pay 90,000 rubles ($1700) on charges of discrediting the Russian military.
Russia has cracked down on critics of its “special military operation” in Ukraine, A well-known dissident, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was arrested in April and remains jailed while awaiting trial on charges of spreading false information about the military. The offense carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years.


NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
Updated 29 June 2022

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says

NATO invites Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, Madrid summit statement says
  • The alliance also agreed on a new strategic concept

MADRID: NATO has invited Sweden and Finland to become members of the military alliance, a commununique published by the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday said.
“The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them (the allies) safer, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure,” the communique said, adding that the alliance also agreed a new strategic concept.
The communique described Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security,” a reaction to the massively deteriorated relationship to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
The alliance pledged further help to Kyiv and agreed a package of support aimed at modernizing the country’s defense sector.
At the same time, NATO decided to significantly strengthen its own deterrence and defense.
“Allies have committed to deploy additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on our eastern flank, to be scaled up from the existing battlegroups to brigade-size units, where and when required underpinned by credible available reinforcements, prepositioned equipment, and enhanced command and control,” the communique said.
In the communique, the alliance described China as a challenge to NATO’s interests, security and values, and as a country that is seeking to undermine the rules-based international order.


EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products
Updated 29 June 2022

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products

EU proposes ban on flavored heated tobacco products
  • A recent commission study showed a 10% increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations
  • The ban would cover devices using heated tobacco to produce emissions containing nicotine inhaled by users

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s executive branch on Wednesday proposed a ban on the sale of flavored heated tobacco products as part of its plan to fight cancer.
The European Commission said its proposal comes in response to a significant increase in the volume of such products sold across the 27-nation bloc.
A recent commission study showed a 10 percent increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations, while heated tobacco products exceeded 2.5 percent of total sales of tobacco products overall across the region.
The ban would cover devices using heated tobacco to produce emissions containing nicotine inhaled by users. E-cigarettes may contain nicotine, but not tobacco. With traditional cigarettes, users inhale smoke from burning tobacco.
“With nine out of 10 lung cancers caused by tobacco, we want to make smoking as unattractive as possible to protect the health of our citizens and save lives,” said Stella Kyriakides, the commissioner for health and food safety.
According to EU figures, cancer is the second cause of death in the bloc of 450 million residents. There are about 1.3 million cancer deaths and 3.5 million new cases annually in the EU.
An estimated 40 percent of EU citizens will face cancer at some point in their lives, with the annual economic impact estimated at around 100 billion euros ($120 billion).
The European Commission previously said it wanted to ensure that less than 5 percent of the EU population uses tobacco by 2040.
The proposed ban now goes to member nations and European Parliament lawmakers for review.