More than 100 children drowned in Viet Nam during the first two months of this year, a 6 per cent increase compared with the same period last year, according to incomplete statistics compiled by the Childcare and Protection Department under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.
A number of separate incidents have contributed to this unfortunate statistic, many of them involving students who lost their footing or were swept away while swimming in sea, river or pond waters in provinces throughout the country.
Deputy director of the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of central Phu Yen Province Pham Thi Tuong Lai said hot weather and a lack of attention by families and schools had led to the incidents.
She suggested adding swimming to the physical education curriculum to give students water defence skills.
"However, schools said they didn't have enough teachers or time to add another subject to the school schedule," she said.
Last week, the department joined hands with the provincial Department of Education and Training to send a document to local schools calling for co-ordination between families, schools and relevant agencies in managing students, especially now that summer was coming, she said.
"However, most parents were not protecting their children from the risk of drowning despite dissemination of information from authorities," said Lai.
Some children's centres in Tuy Hoa City have opened swimming courses but few children have registered for the courses and among those that did register, some quit after only two or three sessions, she added.
Meanwhile, deputy director of the Childcare and Protection Department Nguyen Trong An blamed carelessness among adults for the increased number of child drownings.
Moreover, administrative punishments in the childcare and protection sector related to water safety were too low to be effective, he said. The highest level was VND4 million (US$190).
An said the National Prog-ramme on Preventing Child Injuries and Accidents approved last year made it compulsory for children in coastal provinces to be given swimming courses and life jackets.
However, he said the most important way of preventing child drownings was for parents to take better care of their children, especially those under-five.
Construction sites and local authorities should raise their awareness of potential hazards and build barriers around ponds and dangerous areas to protect children, he added.
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