RNLI achieves Official Relations status with the World Health Organization

Lifeboats News Release

RNLI’s drowning prevention expertise recognised at the highest level of global health.

As the seventy-second World Health Assembly in Geneva starts, the RNLI’s drowning prevention expertise has been recognised by the UN’s agency on health, the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO’s Executive Board has granted the RNLI Official Relations Status, acknowledging the organisation as a key player and trusted partner within the field of drowning prevention and global public health.

Drowning is a significant and under-recognised public health issue. According to WHO latest estimates, drowning is a leading cause of global mortality, responsible for 320,000 deaths each year*. Over 90% of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries, with over 50% being children and young people. In many parts of Asia, drowning is now the leading killer of children over the age of 1.

Officials relation status allows the RNLI to formally share and contribute its drowning prevention expertise within key WHO annual meetings of its Member States, conferences and consultations, informing global health policies and standards.

James Vaughan, International Director said: “We are delighted to have been recognised by the WHO for our expertise and contribution in the area of global drowning prevention. This will allow us to work even more closely with the WHO and its partners, to help make a real difference to tackling this leading cause of global mortality.”

A three-year programme of work between the RNLI and WHO underpins this new designation, comprising the following core elements:

- new Regional Drowning Prevention Assessment and Status Reports for South-East Asia and the Western Pacific (due for publication in late 2020);

- the provision of technical drowning prevention expertise as a contribution to the development and implementation of WHO recommendations and standards addressing drowning in low resource settings

- coordination of inputs from expert, manufacturer and global standards setters on the design, manufacture and distribution of lower cost personal floatation devices* for use in low and middle-income countries;

*WHO Global Health Estimates, released in 2018 and based on 2016 data

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.