Eight Children Latest Victims of Drowning

Eight children drowned in village ponds in three separate incidents between Friday and Sunday, while the U.N. Children’s Fund (Unicef) said Tuesday that drowning is the leading cause of death in children aged over 12 months in Cambodia.

On Saturday morning, two girls and two boys between 3- and 4-years-old went swimming in a pond near Ang Ka’ork village in Prey Veng province’s Mesang district, said Ith Un, chief of the village, which is located in Prey Totoeng commune.

The children, who were unable to swim, got into difficulty in the pond, which was more than three meters deep, said Mr. Un, adding that two other children then ran for help.

“When they saw that their friends were drowning, the 3-year-old boy and the 5-year-old girl ran back to the village and called their families and other villagers for help,” he said.

Sim Chiv, Prey Totoeng commune chief, said villagers arrived at the scene too late to save the children.

On Friday and Sunday, four children also drowned in two separate accidents in Kompong Cham and Kandal provinces. Two boys and two girls, aged between 10 and 13, drowned in small ponds nearby their villages—one of the most common ways for children to drown, according to Unicef.

“Most of the children who die from drowning in Cambodia are aged between 1 and 4. Within this age group, 80 percent of drowning accidents take place within 20 meters from the house—in unfenced and/or uncovered wells, water jars, pits, ponds, containers and reservoirs,” a Unicef representative said in an email.

According to the most recent survey on drowning, the Cambodia Accident and Injury Survey conducted by the government and Unicef in 2007, about six children drown in Cambodia each day, totaling about 2,000 deaths annually. Drowning, the survey concludes, is the leading cause in child deaths after infancy (12 months), while 95 percent of victims over the age of four did not know how to swim.

“Children drown not only because they cannot swim but also as a result of inadequate supervision and lack of safety measures.” the Unicef representative wrote.

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