How we can help end drowning

The RNLI isn’t delivering lifesaving services directly - the issue is far bigger than the reach of one organisation. Instead, we work with governments and other organisations committed to reducing drowning.

A boy holding a plastic container float during an Aquatic Survival lesson in Nungwi, Zanzibar

Photo: RNLI/Mike Lavis

A boy learning to swim with the Panje Project in Zanzibar. Community interventions like these play a vital part in wider drowning prevention plans.

Through those collaborations and partnerships, we’re working at three levels to save lives worldwide:

Global action

Despite claiming so many lives, drowning is not the global priority it should be. Considering the scale of the problem, it is under-recognised and under-resourced. Other development issues such as malaria or malnutrition have benefited from UN resolutions - formal commitments that ensure governments direct political focus and funding towards tackling an issue.

The ambassadors panel at the Bloomberg Drowning Prevention Forum

Photo: RNLI

The ambassadors panel at the Bloomberg Drowning Prevention Forum

Advocacy is a process that champions a cause - such as drowning prevention - at a global level, calling for greater awareness, resources and action for that cause. The RNLI’s international advocacy programme aims to:

  • secure international recognition and resources for drowning prevention, working towards the first ever UN resolution for this cause
  • connect with decision-makers who can influence issues in their own countries
  • raise the voices of those most affected by drowning.

We’ve already started high-level conversations drawing attention to the cause, including:

It is only by making drowning a global priority that the fate of millions of communities can change.

Drowning prevention plans

It’s one of the World Health Organization’s 10 actions to prevent drowning, that every nation should have a plan in place. To drive this forward, we are:

  • focusing on countries that account for 25% of the global drowning burden
  • supporting high-risk countries to develop and implement drowning prevention plans and policies
  • learning and sharing knowledge, through resources such as

Lifesaving interventions

We work with those directly affected by drowning, along with other relevant organisations, to design solutions that meet the local environment and community needs. We make sure that they’re suitable for local partners to deliver and impact can be measured.

Girls learning to swim on the Aquatic Survival programme in Nungwi, Zanzibar

Photo: Mike Lavis

Children on Zanzibar take part in the swimming skills element of the Aquatic Survival programme

We have developed a series of six tried-and-tested interventions that lifesaving organisations and communities can use to keep people safe:

  • swimming and classroom-based safety education
  • lifeguarding
  • flood rescue and safety
  • maritime search and rescue
  • sustainable lifesaving equipment
  • leadership and organisational development.

How does the RNLI decide where to work?

In recent years, we’ve made partnerships with overseas organisations to help test some of the World Health Organization’s 10 recommendations. This has ranged from developing lifeguarding interventions across Africa to understanding data-led strategy in Barisal, Bangladesh.

With six interventions now ready to be shared more widely, we are concentrating our efforts on those countries worst affected by drowning. We also consider:

  • where drowning ranks in the country’s causes of death
  • existing support for drowning prevention from government or NGOs
  • whether there is a willing and capable partner organisation to deliver lifesaving programmes
  • where it is safe to work.

Discover more