IN the Sol Times last week, two reports figure involving children.
Firstly, the plight of a young child left to swelter in the heat in the child seat of a closed-up car while her mother went shopping for fifty minutes. On discovery the police smashed the window to free the child and the mother was prosecuted.
In another report a two-year-old child at a holiday villa fell into the pool and drowned. The latter event occurred early in the morning and it may be that the child wandered into the garden as the rest of the household slept and simply fell into the pool.
Chances are that the pool was not fenced because Spanish law unlike French, Italian, Nordic, Swedish, Bulgarian, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Israeli, Australian and the US does not require private pools to be fenced; even when the villas or individual rooms within them are rented out to tourists.
As a result we are likely to hear of more and more child drownings because, according to the European Child Safety Alliance, 95% of child drownings would be prevented if all pools had safety fencing of at least 1.1 metres high with self-closing and latching gates.
The common sense argument is to place child safety at the door of parents and to point out that they must be responsible for good supervision of their children. Quite so, however, as the ECSA points out, a drowning incident usually happens silently within seconds. The estimated time that a child who has drowned was reported missing was less than five minutes and no caregiver has reported hearing a splash, even when the caregiver was beside the pool.
If we are all fairly agreed now that we would smash a car window were we to spot a child or pet locked inside it in sweltering temperatures – then why are we, individually and collectively, unwilling to fence our pools to protect very young tourists and visitors to our villas in Spain?
We need to bear in mind that child death by drowning is the second killer of children worldwide and that in countries like the UK many of those deaths occur to children on holiday in the Mediterranean. ECSA states that for every one child drowning in pools an additional 140 hospital admissions occur due to pool water immersion in children.
In 2009, the EU introduced legislation empowering EU member states to introduce national laws on the issue of child safety around pools both private and public.
In 2004, after France introduced legislation to this effect Spain stated that it would soon follow suit but nothing has been done other than to introduce regulatory legislation on private holiday letting to protect hoteliers unhappy with the competition from unlicensed holiday homes and airbnb listings.
We need urgently to address this issue and if the government and regional governments will not do so then each and every single one of us renting out villas with a private pool in Spain should do so voluntarily in the best interests of the child. Literature left for holiday-makers, signage and education of the risks will no doubt help but fencing that is EU compliant will prevent 95% of young children from wandering to their death.