Every 85 seconds, someone in the world drowns. These are wasted lives. Preventable deaths. Drowning is a silent epidemic that claims an estimated 360,000 lives every year, many of them children. Over 90% in developing countries. Most drownings occur inland, often close to home. But this leading killer isn’t getting the global attention it deserves.

The World Health Organisation suggests 360,000 is a conservative estimate because people drown in lakes, rivers, ponds and oceans - not hospitals - making formal reporting of these deaths rare and it doesn’t include deaths from transport accidents such as ferries sinking, natural disasters like floods, or migrants lost as they cross open water - tragedies that kill thousands each year.

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Photo credit: Mike Lavis.

The RNLI is working with global leaders, public health organisations and at-risk communities to help turn the tide. We want to make drowning prevention a priority worldwide and reduce this staggering loss of life. By raising awareness, conducting research and testing interventions, we can make a difference together.

Why does the RNLI want to end drowning worldwide? Because the scale of the global drowning problem is a human disaster too big for us to ignore!

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Rowshanara holds a photo of her granddaughter Shohagi who died from drowning. (Photo RNLI/Harrison Bates)

Rowshanara holds a photo of her granddaughter Shohagi who died from drowning. (Photo RNLI/Harrison Bates)

Although the problem can seem overwhelming, the solutions are often low-cost, simple and have a high impact. A 2012 study found that swimming lessons in Bangladesh reduced a child’s chance of drowning by 93%. We’re helping to run a series of similar lessons in Cox’s Bazar that cost just £21 per child.

The RNLI’s work in the UK and Ireland is our core focus of attention and resources. We also believe it’s our duty to share years of lifesaving knowledge and experience, so we can make a difference worldwide.

Richmond and Twickenham Times: A lifeboat from the Brazilian search and rescue service

A lifeboat from the Brazilian search and rescue service.

When just 25 countries share 80% of the world’s drowning burden, it’s important to direct our attention and resources where we can help the most. We’re focusing our efforts on a select number of countries that are worst affected by drownings, such as Bangladesh, Ghana, Greece and Tanzania. As well as these countries the RNLI works with many more nations through the UN and other networks, raising awareness and commitment to tackle the issue globally.

The community of organisations at enddrowning.org ensures people can share ideas, experience and resources on drowning prevention, wherever they are based.

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Community Education.

Community Education

By our 200th anniversary in 2024, we’re seeking a clear national commitment to take action on drowning in countries that account for 25% of the global drowning burden. Almost 200 years ago, RNLI founder Sir William Hillary foresaw an organisation that extended its views ‘from our own immediate coasts to the most remote quarters of the globe’. Today, our international vision is of a world in which no-one should drown.

You can help us towards this vision and donate: https://rnli.org/what-we-do/international/international-funding/donate-to-our-international-work or if your organisation is looking for advice email us: international@rnli.org.uk

Also, applications are now open to join our new global drowning prevention advocacy training workshop. Find out more on how to apply before 12 August 2018 online.