Women in Bangladesh lead the fight against childhood drowning epidemic

Lifeboats News Release

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is using this year’s International Women’s Day (March 8) to celebrate women in Bangladesh who are taking action to help tackle the issue of drowning.


Rima and her son Tawhidul

40 children drown in Bangladesh every day, many of them in village ponds, and it is often women who are leading the on-going efforts to save them. The RNLI is working with partner organisation the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB) to keep pre-school children safe by supporting village creches that operate during the peak drowning times of day and by training the women who run the creches in vital life-saving skills.

Rima Akter lives in the Barishal division of the country, a mainly rural landscape dotted with thousands of ponds, rivers and canals and where fatalities of children from drowning are three times the national average. Rima runs a creche (or Anchal as they are called in locally) in her village, and was also able to use vital CPR skills she was taught as part of her training, to save her own son’s life when he fell into a pond.

Tawhidul, then three and a half, fell into a pond in 2017 and lost consciousness. Rima, who had received her CPR training just a month before, described what happened that day:

‘My son went to play with other children from the community and was washing his hands in the pond when he fell in. I heard the other children screaming and immediately came running to where he was, my grandmother was pulling Tawhidul from the water but he wasn’t breathing at all.

‘I was devastated and in shock, but I remembered the CPR training I had learnt the month before, and began to apply it, five times breathing in the mouth and thirty times chest compression.

‘I can’t say what it felt like during that time, I have only one son and he’s the apple of my eyes. If I hadn’t got my CPR training, I don’t know what would have happened, maybe the time he reached hospital he would have died. I can’t even think of that situation. I’m very much thankful for the training, it saved mine and Tawhidul’s life.

Thousands of women in Bangladesh are involved in running the creches in Barishal division, a key part of the effort to prevent children from drowning. In 2019 almost 9,000 children regularly attended community operated creches supported by the RNLI.

Rima said: ‘The Anchal (creche) is very important for this village, if it wasn’t here the children would often drown and casualties would be much more. Mothers now feel confident the children are safe, the children are not only safe from injury, they also get to learn a lot more things.’

Kate Eardley, Head of International Advocacy at the RNLI, said:

‘Drowning claims an estimated 320,000 lives every year globally, and as the charity that saves lives at sea in the UK and Ireland, we are proud to use our expertise, knowledge and influence to help others save lives across the world

‘Women like Rima play such an important role to reduce the risk of drowning for children in Bangladesh. Without her CPR training and quick action to save her own son he might have been another of the many lives lost to drowning every day. The RNLI is thrilled to play a part in keeping children like Twahidul safe from drowning through our support to our partners in Bangladesh.’


Notes to editor:

Rima is an Anchal Maa and is one of many local women who run the community-based creche facilities which provide a safe environment for children aged 1-4. The creches run from 9am to 1pm when the children are most vulnerable to drowning as their mothers are busy with household chores such as cooking and cleaning and their fathers are at work

Bangladesh has a drowning rate five times higher than other low- and middle-income countries. Surrounded by 700 rivers and around 5,000 miles of inland waterways, children are always only steps away from danger. Access to a free creche place reduces a child’s risk of drowning by an incredible 82%, as well as providing essential early childhood development. The RNLI in partnership with the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB) have helped fund 10,000 creche places for some of Bangladesh’s most vulnerable children.

Media contacts:

For more information contact Oliver Wrynne-Simpson, National Media Manager, on 07795127351 / oliver_wrynne-simpson@rnli.org.uk


Rima and her son Tawhidul


Rima outside their home


A pond by Rima's home in Barishal, Bangladesh

RNLI/Oliver Wrynne-Simpson

An example of a creche (Anchal) which Rima runs

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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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