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The NSRI on Tuesday, 20th July 2021 issued a call to action to the Basic Education Department to include water safety, swimming and first aid lessons as part of the school curriculum - following the United Nations Resolution on Drowning Prevention.

The Resolution, which was passed by the General Assembly on the 28th April 2021, establishes drowning as an important international issue, recognised by all 193 Member States of the UN - including South Africa, sets out the actions that every country should take to prevent drowning and calls for a coordinated UN approach to drowning prevention. Importantly it also commits the South African Government to take actions to prevent drowning.

Each year in South Africa there are approximately 1 500 fatal drownings of which 450 are children. Drowning is a leading cause of child mortality with about a third of the fatal drownings being children under the age of 14.

On average, more than one child drowns every day.

The vast majority of these deaths could and should have been prevented.

Schools play a pivotal role in preventing drowning through water safety and education.

Yet many schools across South Africa do not teach basic water safety skills.

The NSRI, ahead of the first United Nations World Drowning Prevention Day on the 25th July 2021, is calling on the National Minister of Basic Education and the nine Provincial MECs for Education to take active steps in ensuring that Water Safety is included in the Life Orientation Curriculum, and that swimming and water safety training is a mandatory part of learners physical education to reduce drowning deaths and water related accidents. The NSRI is urgently requesting the National Minister to take steps that will see water safety, swimming and first aid lessons introduced as part of school curriculum. A step that could save hundreds of children’s lives every year.

On Wednesday 28th April 2021, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a Resolution on drowning prevention which will see the 25th July observed as World Drowning Prevention Day in order to promote awareness and encourage national action.

The assembly stresses that drowning "is preventable" using "low-cost interventions'' and encourages nations to appoint "a national focal point for drowning prevention," develop countrywide prevention programs, and enact and enforce water safety laws.

According to the United Nations, the world's highest drowning rates are in Africa while the highest number of drowning deaths are in Asia.

"Drowning is a social equity issue that disproportionately affects children and adolescents in rural areas, with many countries reporting drowning as the leading cause of childhood mortality and drowning being among the 10 leading causes of death globally for 5- to 14-year-olds," the resolution says.

South Africa accounts for a significant proportion of drowning deaths worldwide with more than a third occurring among children who are less than 14 years of age.

Drowning deaths in this age group have been reported to be higher in rural areas than in urban areas and this may be due to the high number of open areas of water in and near rural communities, including lakes and rivers.

Thousands of children in South Africa have to cross lakes and rivers just to get to school every day.

“The unprecedented number of drowning incidents is a call for action to the South African government to make a national water safety education program for children an urgent priority”, said Jill Fortuin, NSRI Director of Drowning Prevention.

“The entire responsibility lies on parents and caregivers to ensure children are safe around water. But the reality is that for many families, swimming lessons and water safety education are not accessible due to cost, locality and lack of education”, added Fortuin.

“The NSRI is doing everything possible to reduce the number of drownings in South Africa through drowning prevention measures. The UN Resolution calls for governments to take active part in drowning prevention - this could be a simple step of having drowning prevention policies in place in schools”, added Fortuin.

No parent should have to lose a child, especially to an incident that is entirely preventable.

The NSRI are calling on all South Africans, and in particular parents and caregivers to sign this submission as a call to action to hold the South African Government and the Education Department accountable for their role in preventing these preventable deaths.

Support the NSRI’s call to action by signing the submission here.

Media Queries:

Contact: Jessica Shelver

Email: | Cell: 076 175 0663


The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is the charity organisation that saves lives on South African waters – both coastal and inland. Our goal is to prevent drowning through rescue operations, education and prevention initiatives.

Operating from base stations along the SA coastline, and on inland dams, our rescue volunteers are on call, at all hours, every day of the year. Our rescue crew receives no payment and neither do we charge the people we rescue.

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