UN Health Body Offers Global Plan for Safe Bathing
GENEVA - The World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled plans Thursday to cut the number of deaths from bathing accidents every year - nearly half a million in total - and those caused by infection from polluted waters.
Officials of the United Nations agency said poorer countries would be able to boost their tourist trade by adopting the preventative measures laid out in its new 220-page guidelines for governments and local authorities.
\"Deaths from accidents and drowning, and often long-term illness resulting from pollution in rivers and coastal waters, are a big challenge to public health administration on all continents,\" WHO water and sanitation expert Jamie Bartram said.
\"And because recreational bathing has so many potential health benefits, it becomes even more important to ensure that it is made safer,\" he told a Geneva news conference to launch the guidelines, nearly a decade in preparation.
The WHO says 80 percent of drownings, totaling some 400,000 a year among bathers and boaters, as well as near-drownings which can cause permanent brain damage especially among young children, can be prevented if the right measures are taken.
These would include better public education on potential dangers and water safety, strict control on the sale of alcohol near bathing sites, and provision of trained and equipped lifeguards and rescue services.
The guidelines also showed how to set up cheap sampling to provide reliable long-term assessments of pollution levels, which holiday destination countries could use to demonstrate to potential visitors that their beaches were safe.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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