Swimming Lessons that Save Lives in Bangladesh

0077-Khulna-30 July-2013

Children learning about how to save a drowning friend in Bangladesh, where floods take up to 18,000 lives on a yearly basis during monsoon months.

“Did you know that over 18,000 children die in Bangladesh every year due to drowning? I have a theory that it’s because not many people know how to swim here.”

“How long have you been teaching children how to swim?”

“I started three years ago. I always swam as a hobby, but when I was looking for work, people were always telling me to find other jobs. But then I read about how many children are dying, and I had to do something.”

“What is one thing that everyone should know about how to provide help if they see someone else drowning?”

“Our instinct is to jump in after them. But in a country like Bangladesh, where there is a lot of flooding, you don’t know what the current or the tidal waters will bring you. You should just extend a pole to the drowning person, and pull them in to safety, instead of jumping in after them.”

“Has there been a lot of enthusiasm from the community?”

“I have over 45 children in each of my two classes. Even some adults have started asking for separate classes. But my youngest student is four. He is also the most punctual one.”

A four year old learns how to swim in Rupsha, Bangladesh. Photo courtesy UNICEF/ Shafiqul Alam Kiron

A four year old learns how to swim in Rupsha, Bangladesh.
Photo courtesy UNICEF/ Shafiqul Alam Kiron

This interview took place during a series of investigations into interventions supported by UNICEF to improve the quality of children’s lives in the Sunderbans area, which experiences high flooding on a yearly basis, and suffered through two major hurricanes in 2007 and 2009, both of which caused severe flooding and tidal waves in Bangladesh. The photographs are courtesy of UNICEF/Shafiqul Alam Kiron.


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