The remote village of Raiganj, Bangladesh, is an unlikely place to launch a significant intervention program. But in all respects, it is the right place. For standing proudly within Raiganj is the Model Drowning Prevention Centre, officially launched on 16 March 2012 as a working example of the latest in child drowning prevention research and practice.
Child drowning is a significant issue across Asia. Well over 200,000 children will drown every year, placing drowning as a leading cause of death for children aged 1–17. The centre is seen by many as the great promise for reducing that number and will stand as a guide to government and NGOs working towards that goal.
The centre is the culmination of several years’ research and intervention programs conducted by the Centre for Injury Prevention Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB), The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC) and Royal Life Saving Society – Australia. The partnership also established the International Drowning Research Centre – Bangladesh (IDRCB) specifically to research drowning prevention measures for low and middle income countries.
Central to the Model Drowning Prevention Centre are the results of a four-year pilot program that trialled drowning prevention interventions in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Thailand. The pilot program revealed two significant factors: a simple crèche where children aged 1–4 could be supervised during busy times, and teaching basic swimming and water safety techniques to children aged five and above. The results of the program are due for release shortly and will have a significant impact on drowning prevention in the region.
The purpose-built Model Drowning Prevention Centre is set up as a functioning crèche, and includes training rooms where teachers, parents and others can be taught CPR, first aid, and drowning prevention theory. Outside is a pond and portable swimming pool and is where you get a glimpse of what Bangladeshi children face.
Bangladesh suffers greatly at the hands of child drowning. It is believed as many as 50 children a day will drown, and usually within metres of their homes. Large ponds, like the one at Raiganj, are present throughout Bangladesh. They are used for irrigation, holding fish and general water usage. But the pond at the Model Drowning Prevention Centre has one addition: a bamboo swimming enclosure.
Here, children are taught to swim via the SwimSafe program and partners including UNICEF have now taught over 150,000 children to swim just enough to save their lives.
Justin Scarr is the Chief Operating Officer for Royal Life Saving Society – Australia and has facilitated much of the drowning prevention strategies for the region including the establishment of the Model Drowning Prevention Centre. “It is estimated that 50,000 village creches will be needed to effectively reach most of the children at risk in Bangladesh. A vast amount of funds will be required to accomplish this and the Model Drowning Prevention Centre provides a window into what can be accomplished at village level,” he said.
The Global Drowning Fund is the operational name of Royal Life Saving Society – Australia’s Global Drowning Overseas Aid Relief Fund and seeks to prevent drowning in developing countries through advocacy, research & partnerships.