Swim Instruction in AfricaThink Global Health recently conducted an interview with Olive Kobusingye, the Executive Director at the Injury Control Center in Uganda, addressing drowning and drowning-related injuries happening in Africa. “There are many risk factors that congregate around these communities [that] result in high rates of drowning,” she mentioned, “…a majority of people here are actually drowning away from their homes, and they are young adults.” According to this interview, half of the Africans who regularly use or work on lakes do not know how to swim, resulting in high injury and mortality rates among not only young children but working citizens.

According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 320,000 global deaths by drowning annually, with 90% of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization lists Africa as having the highest rate of drowning in the world, with the region accounting for 20% of drownings worldwide. In response to these harrowing statistics, these three organizations are making efforts to expand swim instruction in Africa, with hopes to eliminate the danger that bodies of water present for a large percentage of the African population.

3 Organizations Promoting Swim Instruction in Africa

  1. The Help Africa Swim Foundation – The Help Africa Swim Foundation identifies itself as, “a small organization with big ambitions.” The organization teaches necessary swimming and fitness skills through an integration of local customs and traditions, providing enrolled Africans with a culturally-relevant swimming education. This organization sees swimming as, not only a life-saving skill but a therapeutic activity that is capable of promoting joy and encouraging physical and mental development. One of the organization’s major projects is The Swim Education Foundation of Gambia. With 11.5% of Gambia being water, 99.3% of the population cannot swim. Professions in fishing, lifeguarding and water sports are unable to be carried out properly, as many workers have little to no swimming experience. The Help Africa Swim Foundation looks at swimming as a skill that both improves the safety and wellbeing of families and bolsters the region’s workforce.

  2. Swim Strong Foundation in Africa – Since 2007, the Swim Strong Foundation has provided more than 10,000 people with swim instruction and safety courses. Priding themselves in promoting attributes such as discipline, goal setting and commitment, the Swim Strong Foundation is on a mission to save lives through water safety education and classes. This foundation has recently expanded swim instruction in Africa, conducting lessons throughout Rwanda and Kenya. The Swim Strong Foundation also includes out-of-water training as well. The organization’s “Know Before You Go” series is a course that emphasizes the dangers of water and steps people can take to ensure safety for all.

  3. Swimming South Africa – Based in South Africa, the Swimming South Africa organization provides a plethora of opportunities, from a water polo league to a disabled swimming program. The Education and Training Unit of Swimming South Africa is one of the most transformative services that the organization provides. With a thorough instructor training program, Swimming South Africa emphasizes comprehensive swim programs that prioritize water safety. The organization targets not only children but adults in these courses, as they believe that “it is essential that as many adults as possible receive water safety education…this premise will make it easier for children to be keen on taking part in aquatics.” The organization realizes that in order to drastically improve swimming rates in Africa, the mindset of adult Africans toward swimming and the need for swim education needs to positively shift.

Looking Forward

Although expanding swim instruction in Africa will not completely eradicate drownings, studies suggest that formal swim instruction reduces drowning rates among 1 to 4-year-old children, as well as reduces the risk of drowning among the adult population. With a continued effort to promote swim and water safety education, these organizations hope to see a severe decline in Africa’s high drowning rates, as well as improved life-saving water practices throughout the region.

– Karli Stone
Photo: Flickr