14ymedio, Havana, 3 August 2023 — Two girls, one 13 and one 16, drowned this Tuesday in a river in the town of San Francisco, in the Dos Ríos popular council, Santiago de Cuba. The event was confirmed on social networks by Aris Arias Batalla, head of Red Cross Operations and Relief in the province, who said that the young women were in an area where swimming is prohibited, where there where no lifeguards at the time of the tragedy.
Arias Batalla identified the girls as Yuleidis Sánchez Escalante (13 years old) and Claudia Escalante Carmenate (16 years old), both residents of the municipality of Palma Soriano. The official explained that it is “impossible” to supervise some rivers and beaches with lifeguards, so he appealed to common sense.
“It is the responsibility and obligation of each family member to care for and protect swimmers and even more so for children,” Batalla wrote in his Facebook post, while adding that lifeguards constantly face tourists who “don’t respect” the signs or calls for attention to stay in the areas of coverage.
In another publication, Arias Batalla pointed out that on July 21 he visited the swimming areas on the beaches, where he was able to verify “the needs and lack of support with which these brave lifeguards systematically work,” as well as the “imprudence of families,” since there were unsupervised children playing on the shore and adolescents outside the area of coverage. A lifeguard from the coast of Juraguá told Batalla that same day that he had rescued a young man who was drowning.
Batalla, who promotes the work of the Red Cross in the province, indicated that it was also necessary to “lament the loss of human life.” Although he did not specify a number, he said that they were children and teenagers. “The highest incidence of these deaths has occurred in rural towns,” he insisted.
The Government has not published updated data on deaths by drowning in Cuba. The most recent information corresponds to 2019, when 262 people were registered, which meant a death rate of 2.2 per 100,000. The information is derived from a report prepared at that time by the World Health Organization (WHO) for an international congress aimed at addressing drowning as an important and preventable cause of mortality.
Although the figures are lower than countries such as Russia or Thailand, they are much higher than those of surrounding and western countries (1.5 in the United States, 0.9 in Spain). The lack of public swimming pools means that thousands of Cubans do not even know how to swim, and they risk their lives not only in moments of leisure, but in cases of need, such as floods.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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