Coastal residents navigate the dangers associated with water on a daily basis as they collect water for cooking, use the sea for bathing, and earn a living from fishing. In addition, with a growing middle-class in Bangladesh and an increasing number of international tourists there has been significant growth in the number of tourists visiting the coastal areas of Bangladesh over recent years, putting many thousands at risk.
Without an effective prevention strategy the number of cases of fatal drowning will increase. Lessons learnt from other countries suggest that the development of a water-safety campaign and increasing bather supervision by implementing a lifeguard service is an effective way to reduce drowning.
Since 2012 the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB) have been working with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in the UK to implement a world class lifeguard service in Cox’s Bazar and provide a community water safety programme in schools.
The aim is to develop and implement a comprehensive drowning prevention strategy for coastal areas of Bangladesh, specifically Cox Bazar.
With the technical and financial support of the RNLI, the CIPRB operates and manages the program, called SeaSafe. SeaSafe has already proved its worth saving countless lives and educating over 10,000 children to be safe in and near the water.
SeaSafe has four key objectives:
1) Provide regular volunteer beach lifesaving patrols in Cox’s Bazar
2) Provide a professional (full time) lifeguard service 7 days a week, 365 days a year
3) Provide a community education program to schools and the wider community
4) Provide lifesaving training (lifeguarding, first aid, flood rescue) to other organizations.
Timeline of SeaSafe activity:
– August 2011 RNLI scoping visit
– April 2012 Volunteer lifeguard service introduced
– October 2012 Community education and instructor training introduced
– October 2013 All lifesaving services in Cox’s Bazar trained to a set standard
– May 2014 Full time lifeguard service introduced
– November 2014 Monitoring and evaluation, signage and
operational management systems put in place
Achievements to date:
– 68 lifeguards trained
– 24 lives saved by lifeguards
– 8 lifeguard instructors trained
– 10,000+ children (in over 40 schools) have received a water safety lesson
– 4 lifeguards received leadership training in the UK
– Nipper (youth) lifesaving club introduced
– Beach safety international standards (ISO) adopted (flags, zoning, uniform sand risk
– 30 Coastguards trained in basic lifesaving and first aid
– Piloted and developed the International Lifeguard Award for low resource organizations
– Piloted and developed low cost and locally sustainable rescue equipment solutions
In November 2014 a team of 4 members from RNLI International team visited the project. They supported in the following
- Developed/modified existing lifeguarding system
- Monitoring system introduced
- Developed signboard and flags for the beach area
- Tools for services provided by Lifeguards
- Developed communication materials
- Meet with Beach Management Committee and provided necessary feedback
- Meet with all trained volunteers
- Developed a list of necessary logistics to maintain international standard
- Assess the beach lifeguarding system
In May 2014 and just days after the full time SeaSafe lifeguard service was established, a new full-time lifeguard, Sukkur, spotted a young girl who had been swimming when she was caught in a rip current. Fortunately he managed to reach and rescue the girl, who was on holiday from Dhaka with her family, and bring her back to shore, saving her life.
The rescue happened mid-week. Days before, the volunteers would not have been on duty the girl would have most probably drowned.
Building on its success in Cox’s Bazar, the RNLI and CIPRB would like to expand the SeaSafe program to other areas of Bangladesh. In 2015, it is hoped that the SeaSafe program will expand to an additional beach area and reach over 50,000 children through its school water safety program.
Community First Responder
In high income countries (HICs) emergency medical services are able to respond rapidly to accidents and have trained and equipped personnel to give resuscitation at the scene, during transportation, and in hospital.
In addition bystanders are often trained in basic life support and administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately at the scene. Many victims in HICs survive until hospitalisation and studies suggest that the victims are more likely to survive following early bystander CPR.
However, in Bangladesh the victims do not receive immediate, trained life support at the scene and during transportation. Bystanders with CPR skills and emergency medical systems in rural areas do not exist.
A first responder training programme including CPR has been developed covering 20 villages in Raiganj, Bangladesh. Its objectives are to develop and implement a first responder training programme, assess the feasibility to train lay persons with low literacy in the rural communities in Bangladesh, and to explore the acceptability of the training program in the community.
Over 2,400 local volunteers, including adolescent boys and girls, received a two-days training and regular refreshers training on the first response. During 2012 – 2013 over 150 victims received first response.