Tackling the international drowning epidemic
Drowning kills more people each year than malaria, claiming an estimated 1.2M lives around the world. In some countries, particularly in areas of Asia, Africa and South America, drowning is the leading cause of child death.
Most drownings occur in the world’s poorest countries, which have either very limited lifesaving services, or none at all. Despite the scale of the problem, it is barely recognised – a hidden epidemic.
We are expanding our international work, providing others with the knowledge, equipment and skills to try to reduce this staggering loss of life.
We know drowning is preventable. A large proportion of the 1.2M global drownings each year occur in coastal locations, in floods, or in other large bodies of water – areas in which we have expertise in saving lives and can offer help.
We’re not setting up RNLI services overseas, but we’re giving others the means to help themselves by providing a range of services to other search and rescue-related organisations. In each case, we assess their current capabilities and needs, to decide how best we can help. This help might take the form of bespoke training, supply of equipment, safety education, or guidance on search and rescue operations and flood resilience.
Small interventions can make a huge difference. In March 2012, two RNLI lifeguard trainers spent a week in Bangladesh teaching lifesaving skills, which now means Bangladesh has its first lifesaving club, with trained volunteers who have already begun saving lives.
Lifeguard training tackles drowning in the Gambia and Senegal
Bangladesh receives vital flood rescue and survival training
Hundreds of African children benefit from new lifesaving tuition
International lifesavers in UK for training in how to save lives from drowning
Future Leaders in Lifesaving video blog
Senegal video diary
RNLI lifeguards help save lives in Senegal
More lives to be saved from drowning in Bangladesh thanks to vital RNLI training
International lifesaving trainees help RNLI lifeguards rescue boy at Sandbanks
International lifesavers arrive in the UK for specialist training with the RNLI
British Virgin Islands
The RNLI has nearly 200 years of experience in delivering a world-class maritime search and rescue service for the UK and Ireland. Our service constantly evolves to stay in line with an ever-changing maritime environment that spans everything from leisure users on the beach and sea to commercial shipping.
Today, the RNLI saves lives at sea in three ways: lifeboating, lifeguarding and safety advice. Combined, they provide one of the most effective maritime rescue services in the world.
As part of our growing international development work, we are offering consultancy services to new, developing and established lifesaving and search and rescue organisations.
All our services, from advising on a complete national package of maritime SAR to the supply of local training, can be tailored to and quoted for your specific needs.
Read on to find out more about the support packages on offer and some of the countries where we have worked.
Find out more about how the RNLI could help you develop or improve your lifesaving organisation. Includes an introduction from our CEO Paul Bossier, and information on each of our departments; Operations, Training & Development, Fundraising and Communications, Engineering and Supply and Business Support.
We deliver the highest standards of training to search and rescue personnel both in the UK and around the world. Some of our most recent clients include the search and rescue organisations of China, Iceland and Portugal.
Training can be delivered by our experienced staff at our specialist training centre, RNLI College, or at any other suitable location. The fully residential RNLI College is based on the south coast of England.
Our facilities include training rooms, fire and full mission bridge simulators (lifeboat and commercial vessel), live engine workshops, survival centre with 25m wave tank (special effects include blackout capability, storm simulation and helicopter recovery), and a variety of search and rescue training vessels.
Our expertise is derived from a combination of RNLI experience and the use of cutting-edge technology and training techniques.
All our training services can be tailored and quoted to suit your specific needs and may include:
leadership and teambuilding
rough weather handling
engine and electrical
Read more about lifeboat training.
Experienced RNLI staff can also deliver training and assessment to search and rescue and lifesaving teams in their own countries. Training materials are provided.
We have an active fleet of over 340 lifeboats, ranging from 3.8–17m in length, as well as a relief fleet. There are also four active and three relief hovercraft.
Different classes of lifeboat are needed for various locations, depending on geographical features and the kind of rescue work that the station is asked to do.
Our lifeboats are built and maintained to the highest standards. Many of our former lifeboats have been sold at competitive prices to other search and rescue organisations in countries including Australia, Chile, China, Iceland, Portugal, South Africa and Uruguay, to carry on their intended purpose of saving lives at sea. For a list of former RNLI lifeboats for sale, please contact us.
We construct many of our own lifeboats and in the past have built boats for other rescue services. Please contact us if you would like further information.
Working with a complicated and varied coastline, running 236 lifeboat stations and more than 180 lifeguard units, and constantly monitoring and improving performance has given the RNLI a vast depth of experience and skills. We can work with you, sharing our experience, to help define and improve your maritime search and rescue strategy
The RNLI has built up considerable experience of rapid response to inland flooding both in the UK and abroad.
This is a completely different environment from the sea, and it needs a very different set of skills. We have teams specially trained in swift-water rescue, and practical experience in both preparation and operational flood rescue activity.
To find out how we can help you develop your flood response plans and capabilities, please contact us.
RNLI College is a unique harbourside location for conferences, training and teambuilding.
All profits made at RNLI College help save lives at sea.
Drowning claims an estimated 1.2M lives around the world each year – more than the number of people dying from malaria. Most of these drownings happen in the world’s poorest countries and, in some of these countries, drowning is the leading cause of child death.
Despite the scale of the issue, and the fact that drowning is as preventable as most diseases, there are very few drowning prevention programmes tackling the issue. What is being achieved is localised and ad hoc.
Most global drownings occur at the coast, in rivers or large lakes, or in floods – all environments in which the RNLI has expertise in drowning prevention and can offer help to other countries to save thousands of lives.
We know drowning is preventable. Effective and achievable programmes are needed to help build local capabilities and prevent this tragic loss of life.
Our international work aims to help emerging and developing search and rescue-related organisations worldwide by providing them with knowledge, equipment and skills to save more lives.
We’re helping them improve their own capabilities and making a clear and measurable difference by delivering training, equipment and advice to reduce global drownings.
We’re offering a range of options to other lifesaving organisations, dependent on their capabilities and needs. Areas in which the RNLI can help are:
training – operational, first aid, search and rescue and management
equipment – lifesaving and personal protective equipment
safety and education – programme design and development
lifeboat and lifeguard services – search and rescue framework, governance and strategy
flood preparedness and resilience.
We’ll be delivering and monitoring programmes by working with key local, national and international groups.
With nearly 200 years of accumulated knowledge, and world-class resources and capabilities, the RNLI is in a unique position to help new or developing lifesaving organisations.
We’ve been working with countries including Bangladesh, Cameroon, Senegal, India, Kenya, Mauritius, Brazil, China, South Korea, Iceland, Canada and St Lucia.
The work has ranged from delivering lifeguard training and swim survival training in Bangladesh and Cameroon to selling former RNLI lifeboats and providing consultancy.
The RNLI provides one of the most effective and dependable search and rescue services in the world – our expertise has been built up over nearly 200 years. Drowning and limited search and rescue services are major issues for many countries around the world so we’re sharing our knowledge and expertise internationally, to help other countries save lives too.
Our work abroad is funded independently from our work at home.
Our international work is set up to be self-sustaining – income generated through sales of equipment and consultancy to some countries will fund the development work in low and middle-income countries. Other potential sources of income include external funding, such as grants, and, in time, fundraising specifically for international projects.
The amount is not fixed as it will vary depending on which funding and grants are available. If government grants for international work become available we will apply, where appropriate, to allow us to take on more projects and help save more lives overseas.
RNLI lifeboats have a design life of 10, 16 or 25 years, dependent on type. This ensures a manageable, steady build programme. We define a service life for them, but this doesn’t mean they become operationally unfit when they reach a certain age, so we can sell them on for secondary use.
Many countries can’t afford to design and purpose-build lifeboats, and commercial craft are rarely built to the same standard, nor do they encompass self-righting in their design. By selling lifeboats on to like-minded organisations, they continue to do what our donors intended – save lives at sea.
We provide a full, accurate description of each lifeboat, to ensure she is fit for the purpose of second use. Some buyers ask the RNLI to give ongoing advice in this area.
Over the last 2 years, we have sold 10 inshore lifeboats and 1 all-weather lifeboat internationally.
We also provide training packages to international search and rescue organisations. In many cases, training packages have been delivered to overseas lifeboat crews to show them how to operate and maintain lifeboats that have been bought from us.
We can help with:
lifeboat and lifeguard services – search and rescue framework, governance and strategy
If you have a question about our international work that hasn’t been answered here, please contact us.
Lifeguard training in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has one of the highest drowning rates in the world. Drowning claims the lives of around 18,000 Bangladeshi children each year, making it more deadly than infectious disease or malnutrition.
But hundreds of lives could be saved every year in Bangladesh now the country’s first ever lifesaving club has been set up with the help of the RNLI.
In March 2012, experienced RNLI Lifeguard Trainers Darren Williams and Scott Davidson spent two weeks delivering a comprehensive lifeguard training programme to 15 Bangladeshi volunteers, including the first female lifeguard in Bangladesh.
They covered the essentials of lifeguard training, including:
recognising when someone is in distress
understanding rescue equipment
reaching, rescuing, assessing and treating a casualty.
They also delivered a Train the Trainer course, so that the volunteers could teach the skills they had learned to others, enabling them to keep sharing their skills long after the trainers had returned home.
Within days of completing their training, the Bangladeshi lifeguard volunteers saved their first life. Just a few days of training is already saving lives and will continue to do so for years to come, thanks to the effective partnership of RNLI experts with dedicated local volunteers.
In October 2012, Darren and Scott returned to Bangladesh to oversee the delivery of training to 45 more lifeguards. The local lifeguards trained back in March led the sessions, supported by Darren and Scott, using a training manual developed by the RNLI specifically for use in countries where specialist equipment and facilities are not available.
They also taught the lifeguards how to deliver water safety education talks in schools. If the newly-trained lifeguards can give vital advice to thousands of school children, we hope hundreds more lives could be saved each year.
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