Life in Bangladesh revolves around water, yet most children lack even the most basic swimming and water safety skills. As a result, approximately 50 children drown in Bangladesh every day – 17,000 every year.
Studies show that children aged 1–4 are the most likely to drown in Bangladesh. Drowning hazards including wells, fish ponds, livestock troughs, rice paddies, irrigation canals and even cooking pots are found in and around the home environment.
Families are often large, making constant adult supervision difficult. There is much work to be done around the home within poor rural villages. With few barriers, busy parents and hazards only metres away, young children are extremely vulnerable. Almost half of the children who drown do so within 10 metres of the home.
The Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB) along with partner organisations The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC) and Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, developed a community crèche programme (called Anchal) to provide children with a safe environment during the period of the day when the parents are busiest with household chores.
The results of a four-year research study are due for release shortly and are set to have a profound impact on drowning prevention. Furthermore, the crèche created a significant ‘safe haven effect’, where other injuries were reduced and children are given a head start in schooling.
SwimSafe is based on the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia’s Swim and Survive program and has been adapted to suit life in Bangladesh. Under the supervision of trained Community Swimming Instructors (CSIs), children from the age of five learn water familiarisation, water safety knowledge, and swimming, survival, and rescue skills.
In a partnership between the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB), The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC), the Bangladesh Swimming Federation, UNICEF and Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, more than 150,000 Bangladeshi children have been trained through the SwimSafe program since 2005.
Swimming lessons are conducted in village ponds with specially designed bamboo enclosures creating swimming pool structures. The structures are inexpensive to make, use local labour and materials, create a safe boundary and have a shallow platform for water familiarisation activities.
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