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2012: RNLI international programme starts

In 2012, the RNLI stepped up its international work to help tackle the worldwide drowning epidemic, partnering with global leaders and public health organisations to support communities most at risk of drowning.

A group in the water taking part in our International Aquatic Survival programme in Zanzibar, Africa.

Photo: RNLI/Aram Atkinson

The global drowning epidemic claims an estimated 235,000 lives every year, many of them children. In many parts of Asia, it is the leading killer of children over the age of 1. To help prevent more international drowning tragedies and devastating loss of life, the RNLI stepped up its international work.

We have a long history of sharing our lifesaving expertise on a global scale, from selling lifeboats abroad to sending lifeguards on international exchanges, but we knew there was plenty more to be done.

Steve Wills, the RNLI’s Head of International Programmes, explains: ‘A lot of [overseas] drownings happen in floods, large bodies of water, or at the coast – all areas in which we have expertise in saving lives and can help to reduce these sad losses.

‘The RNLI runs one of the most effective and dependable lifeboat and lifeguard services in the world and there is a great demand for us to share our knowledge and skills.’

To help tackle the global drowning problem, we work with global leaders, public health organisations and at-risk communities to share lifesaving expertise, raise awareness, and develop and identify ways to save more lives.

While our work in the UK and Ireland remains a core focus of our attention and resources, we won’t stand by while anyone, anywhere drowns. Our international work aims to help communities set up sustainable rescue and prevention services to reduce drowning. 

With world sea levels rising and extreme weather increasing, flood rescue training helps ensure that search and rescue organisations can respond to flooding effectively and safely. 

We also deliver swim survival programmes and lifeguarding training, giving more children the opportunity to learn to swim, and making beaches and coastal areas safer.

Read about more of our tried-and-tested lifesaving interventions to help put a stop to drowning.