A teacher in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre's My Chanh commune teaches children how to swim in a local lake (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - The Mekong Delta has the highest rate of drowning in the country, particularly in Dong Thap province, where the number of deaths due to drowning is 10 times higher compared to that of dengue fever and hand, foot and mouth disease combined.

Over the years, though the number of children in the Mekong Delta who have drowned has fallen, the death rate remains high.

To minimise the number of cases, authorities at all levels have strengthened inspections and carried out a number of measures.

According to research by the United Nations Children’s Fund in Vietnam (UNICEF Vietnam), about 7,000 children drown each year in Vietnam.

The number of drowning deaths reported in the Mekong Delta is high compared to other regions.

Dong Thap province had 29 children died from drowning last year, 79 percent of which were under six years old, according to a local report.

In the first quarter of this year, eight children drowned in the province.

“This is a huge challenge and concern in the province,” Doan Tan Buu, vice chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said.

In Vinh Long province, four people have drowned since the beginning of the year.

“Most children who drown are eight years old or younger,” said Phan Thi My Hanh, deputy director of the province’s Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

She explained that while some drowning cases had occurred because of parents’ and grandparents’ lack of attention to their children, other children had drowned because they did not know how to swim.

Pham Van Hien, secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Youth Union of U Minh district in Ca Mau province, said that two drowning cases had occurred since January this year and eight were recorded last year.

Most victims were children, Hien said, adding that an unsafe, accident-prone environment with open ponds and lakes were also factors.

With the Mekong Delta being a flood-prone area, it is important for parents to carefully look after their children, he added.

Students in the Mekong Delta are now on summer break when the risk of drowning is very high, according to authorities.

The Ca Mau provincial People’s Committee has instructed schools to offer free swimming lessons for children and raise parents' awareness of the importance of swimming lessons and the potential for drowning.

The province also plans to impose strict penalties on transport firms that do not prepare life jackets for children.

Meanwhile, Dong Thap province is publicly advocating swimming lessons for all children.

The province’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism has set a target for authorities to offer more than 1,000 swimming courses for 26,000 children between 7 and 15 years old this year.

The province also aims to have a swimming pool at all schools.

Buu said that authorities, schools, families and all society should promote swimming lessons.

The Department of Education and Training of Can Tho city has also encouraged parents to send their children to swimming courses.

Nguyen Manh Hung, chief of the Can Tho Department of Education and Training Office, said that the city in recent years has had no student drowning cases since carrying out these measures.

Students in Can Tho can learn how to swim at schools with a pool or at swimming pools that exist in all districts, Hung added. — VNS/VNA