Background Drowning claims 14 000 deaths in Bangladesh and considering a new public health epidemic. However, there is few drowning prevention programme implemented.
Objectives To understand the community perception of Bangladeshi rural community toward drowning and its prevention.
Methods Three particular sub-districts of Barisal, the most drowning prone settings in Bangladesh, were selected as study sites which represent coastal areas, riversides and inland water bodies to capture maximum geographical variation in terms of drowning. An anthropological study was undertaken on September to October in 2016.Twenty in-depth interviews, eight focus group discussions were conducted with household level parents and household heads, both male and female, community heads and influential persons, and caregivers.
Results The interviews and focus group discussions revealed that drowning is a natural phenomenon to most of the community people, drowning often conceptualized as an accident, God’s will, an influence of evil spirits and sometimes perceptions related to community myth and superstitions. It was also revealed that such perceptions are constructed with the influence of community myths, elderly people’s perception, and neighbors and family’s belief. Significantly these perceptions influenced people to understand that drowning is not preventable. As a result, the respondents were reluctant to take any actions. Although some of the respondents believed that child drowning can be prevented by teaching swimming, supervising children, fencing waterbodies, sending children to school and raising awareness, however they were not convinced to take any measures. Poverty, lack of skills, geographical situation, lifesaving equipment constraints reportedly informed as main reasons behind the unwillingness of taking any measures.
Conclusion The community had wrong perception regarding the occurrence of drowning. Although some of them were aware of the drowning prevention measures, they were found reluctant to put those input practice. Measures should be taken to aware people on the risk factors of drowning and their prevention.
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