How we're helping

We know this loss of life is needless - and it’s largely preventable. But achieving a significant reduction in drowning around the world is a big challenge. The issue is not on the radar at a national or community level and it competes with a whole range of other global priorities. This makes it extremely difficult to target nations and communities that are likely to be at risk.
An RNLI instructor delivers lifeguard training in Tanzania

Photo: Mike Lavis

An RNLI instructor delivers lifeguard training in Tanzania

Our approach

We are keen to play a leading role in this challenge. We want to contribute:

  • our specific knowledge from 190 years of maritime lifesaving
  • our desire to learn, adapt and share
  • our commitment and capacity to help communities tackle drowning.

We support the World Health Organization's (WHO) proposals for reducing global drowning, which include:

  • All countries should implement proven drowning prevention strategies, tailored to their own circumstances and risk groups.
  • All countries should take steps to improve data about drowning.
  • All countries should aim to develop a national water safety plan.

A world where nobody should drown

Our lifesaving programmes will drastically improve the chances of people surviving in and around water. To have the greatest impact, we’ll be working with partners on three distinct approaches - at a global, national and local level. You can get an overview of the RNLI’s international programmes in this short film:

An RNLI trainer shares expertise with future leaders in lifesaving from around the world

We’re building alliances within and beyond the drowning prevention community, so that we understand more about drowning, interventions and their impacts. This will also raise the issue on the right international agendas so that it’s addressed in a coordinated way by global decision makers.

We want to make sure that drowning reduction measures are addressed by international organisations and are included in global policies and standards.

An RNLI instructor and a flood rescue trainee look at a map in Bangladesh

We’ll be testing a strategy, based on the WHO’s proposed 7 steps for developing a national plan, to see if a more collaborative and integrated national approach reduces the risk of drowning.

Over the next 3-4 years we will be supporting in-country pilot projects that will initially focus on a region rather than the whole country, with activity based on evidence and proven interventions. We’re targeting this work within Bangladesh and a country in East Africa, to be chosen soon. An international working group will help us work with at least two other countries to achieve similar outcomes.

An Aquatic Survival trainer teaches children in the sea on Zanzibar

The third approach builds on the RNLI’s existing expertise to equip communities with the skills to be resilient to specific drowning risks. This could include flood rescue, aquatic survival or beach lifeguarding interventions - ultimately communities will be better trained and equipped to limit the dangers they face locally.

Where is the RNLI working?

More than 90% of drownings occur in low- and middle-income countries where daily life brings men, women and children into contact with open water hazards.

This is why the RNLI is focusing its international efforts in the places where its impact will be felt most. Currently, we are supporting the following projects:

More on Bangladesh
Flood rescue training in a river in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has one of the highest drowning rates worldwide. The RNLI is working to help others with lifeguard, flood rescue and education projects.
More on Bangladesh
More on Tanzania
An Aquatic Survival trainer teaches children on a Zanzibar beach
Working with The Panje Project, our Aquatic Survival programme helps keep children safe around open water.
More on Tanzania
More on Ghana
A child takes part in a survey before learning Aquatic Survival skills in Ghana
People in Ghana encounter open water hazards daily. The RNLI is working with Felix Fitness Foundation to teach children Aquatic Survival skills.
More on Ghana
More on Lesvos
Hellenic rescue team training with the RNLI
The RNLI are providing mentoring and training to improve the local search and rescue service.
More on Lesvos
About the training
A Lifeguard watches over children at Yoff Beach Senegal
Future Leaders in Lifesaving
This first-of-its kind training gives future leaders the skills and connections to develop their own lifesaving organisations, in countries where drowning is a major cause of death.
About the training
Find out more
Flood rescue throw bags being produced by local makers in Bangladesh
Low-cost equipment
We’re working with international partners to develop low-cost, sustainable alternatives to expensive pieces of rescue equipment.
Find out more