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The best defense against drowning

You might think that in a place surrounded by water that swimming would be second nature to local children, but in Hatibandha and many communities like it, that’s not the case. And that’s a big problem because it directly contributes to drowning, which is one of the leading causes of death among children in this flood-prone community.

“Swimming was once very popular in our village life,” says Mahburbur, one of the local grandparents who says he learned to swim as a young child. “But now this culture has disappeared, resulting in an increased rate of child mortality from drowning.”

Some of the children who participated in the Swim-Safe program

To help local children – who are on or near the water every day – survive in the event of a flood or accident, Plan has been working in the region to create a Swim-Safe initiative that provides swimming lessons, along with water safety and rescue training. So far, a total of 500 children aged 4-10 have taken part and are now equipped with their best line of defense against drowning.

Sabina speaks to her fellow Swim-Safe program trainers

The program has been a true community initiative, run by local volunteer organizers and instructors (including youth like Sabina), who have been trained by partners from the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research. Local teachers have played a key role as well, helping to build enrollment in the program, and members of the community, like Afjal, have even lent out their ponds for practice.

“I lost my nearest friend from drowning in this very pond when I was eight years old,” says Afjal. “Now I see children getting trained here so they can learn to swim and stay safe. I am extremely happy and grateful to Plan for such an initiative.”

A swim competition to celebrate the Swim-Safe initiative in Hatibandha

To celebrate the progress and reinforce the renewed local interest in swimming, the community organized their first ever Safe Swim competition, which was attended by hundreds of children who were enthusiastically cheered on by parents, siblings, friends and teachers.

“Thanks to Plan for helping us realize what a problem this is and taking appropriate action to teach the children swimming to save their lives,” says Sarwar Hayat Khan, a local principal.


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This project receives financial support from the Government of Canada through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD).