The Power of Sport: Safe swimming in BangladeshSubscribe
James Skitt 03 August 2012
As the world’s top swimmers compete for gold this summer, International Inspiration, the legacy programme of London 2012, has also given thousands of children in Bangladesh the opportunity to develop basic swimming skills. The SwimSafe programme is a response to the 17,000 deaths of young people caused by drowning, every year.
The SwimSafe programme, which is funded by Comic Relief and implemented through UK Sport, British Council and UNICEF, teamed up with the Bangladesh Swimming Federation and the Centre of Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB) to teach survival swimming techniques to young children at risk of drowning. Local community coaches, have been trained to deliver basic survival and first aid skills, which they pass onto children in a series of locally held lessons.
As well as learning to swim and tread water, children learn how to rescue somebody who is drowning and identify life-threatening water hazards like fast-flowing rivers. While the programme’s main aim has been to reduce the numbers of deaths by drowning, SwimSafe has also enabled new swimming and coaching talent to be discovered and fostered.
Noor Begum,18, from the rural Rangpur district in Northern Bangladesh, is one of 784 of the inspirational teenagers who is teaching children these basic swimming techniques.
“Recently I was at a neighbour’s house and they had pulled their drowning daughter out of the water. They were treating her with traditional methods by swinging her upside down to get rid of the water, but I took over and saved her life by using the techniques of breathing that I learnt in my training,’ she said.
"Now I am using the skills and experience I have learnt to further my education and I am much more respected in my community – something which is very important for women in Bangladesh."
The SwimSafe programme has been a great success in Bangladesh and this is down to the close partnerships with local in-country partners and the enthusiasm of the local coaches to continue to teach young people these essential skills. Over 80,000 non-swimmers from seven flood-prone districts have been taught how to swim.