Floating aids come in all shapes and sizes - Grade 4 at Samut Prakan, Bangkok

Floating aids come in all shapes and sizes - Grade 4 at Samut Prakan, Bangkok

More than 2,600 children die from drowning in Thailand every year, claiming the lives of about seven Thai children each day. Through the SwimSafe Thailand program, The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC), Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, Thai Life Saving Society and the Resourcing Public Health Foundation (RPHF) are partnering together to address the tragic and preventable loss of so many young lives.

While Thai children live and play around the water as part of their daily routines, only one third of Thai children ever learn to swim. The Thai National Injury Survey (TNIS) conducted between 2003 and 2004 showed that more children over the age of one die from drowning than from any other single cause of death.

TASC and RPHF have developed the SwimSafe Thailand program in recognition of the severity of the drowning problem. The program trains local teachers to be swimming and water safety instructors who then teach survival swimming to school children aged 6-12 years.

Using portable pools set up on school grounds, SwimSafe Thailand aims to demonstrate that teaching children survival swimming skills is an inexpensive and effective drowning prevention activity in both urban and rural Thailand. The 12×5 metre pools are easily transportable so that they can reach a maximum number of students.

By integrating water safety and swim teaching programs into the school curricula, SwimSafe Thailand promotes swimming ability as a necessary life skill to students and their communities. These are skills often taken for granted in high income countries.

Expanding on existing SwimSafe programs in Bangladesh and Vietnam, the SwimSafe Thailand curriculum has been developed in association with Royal Life Saving Society – Australia (RLSSA) and the Thai Life Saving Society to specifically fit the geographic and cultural needs of Thailand.

SwimSafe teaches children how to save their peers as well - Grade 5 learning CPR in Chiang Rai province.

SwimSafe teaches children how to save their peers as well - Grade 5 learning CPR in Chiang Rai province

SwimSafe teaches familiarity with the water and children learn a variety of s wimming, survival and rescue skills. Graduates of the program are able to swim continuously for 25 metres and float for 90 seconds.

SwimSafe Thailand builds upon a successful earlier study conducted by the CPHS in Chiang Rai province of northern Thailand, where children were taught survival swimming skills in a natural water reserve in 20 hours of lessons.

Since 2009, SwimSafe has been operating with primary schools in rural Chiang Rai province and in urban Samut Prakan near Bangkok where several swimming and water safety instructors have been trained. In 2011 a third SwimSafe venue is being set up in Ayuthaya province about an hour north of Bangkok. Children from nine schools across Thailand are enrolled in SwimSafe at these three venues.

SwimSafe Thailand is funded by the Australia-Thailand Institute (ATI) and is also supported with funds raised generously by the Bangkok Patana School – Tigersharks in their annual swim-a-thon and contributions from the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia and The Alliance for Safe Children.

With the successful pilot of the program in Chiang Rai and Samut Prakan, in 2011 SwimSafe will continue to ensure that more and more Thai children are given the opportunity to learn the necessary swimming and survival skills to safeguard themselvesand others from drowning.

World Conference on Drowning Prevention – Danang, Vietnam May 2011

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Preventing child drowning in Asia through teaching survival swimming skills

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