Shortly after the World Drowning Prevention Conference 2017 in Vancouver, we contributed to the drafting of a Conference Declaration on Drowning Risk Reduction of Migrants and Refugees. This Declaration contained seven statements, each supported by several actions.
In this post, we will highlight the actions that Nile Swimmers are currently taking, and the actions we are planning to take in the coming year in support of the Vancouver Declaration.
Actions 1 and 2: Review the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Start a conversation about how the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be honoured and implemented within your organisation
Since the outset, Nile Swimmers has taken a rights-based approach to water safety. Our early work with Rights & Humanity was instrumental in shaping our thinking. As an organisation, we have aligned ourselves to the Core Humanitarian Standard, and seek to apply its Nine Commitments in all of our work.
Action 4: Research the humanitarian organisations working directly with communities in countries of origin of migrants and refugees and find out what support they require
We are one of those organisations. Our instructors have worked in partnership with UNICEF Sudan to deliver water safety training directly to the most vulnerable children in refugee camps in Sudan. What do we need? More funds so that we can deliver lifesaving water safety education to more vulnerable people. Expert volunteers to assist with financial functions, governance tasks, and policy drafting. What do we not need? Well-meaning international volunteers who want to help on the ground in Sudan (where our projects are entirely run by local teams) who can’t speak Arabic and/or Sudanese tribal languages.
Action 9: Discuss how your organisation or community can be more inclusive to refugees and migrants and proactive in welcoming all
Although Nile Swimmers is a Sudanese led organisation, staffed entirely with Sudanese people, and supported by Sudanese volunteers, they are almost all centred in Khartoum (the capital city). Sudan is an incredibly diverse country, with many linguistic and cultural differences across the country. We want to include more refugees and migrants, who we know are vulnerable to drowning, in the development of our projects. This allows us to understand the variety of challenges that they face and what we can do to best meet their water safety needs.
Action 10: Identify humanitarian organisations within your community with whom you can partner
For the last two years, Nile Swimmers has partnered with UNICEF Sudan to provide water safety training to vulnerable communities, in refugee camps and in villages that are prone to flooding. We recognise that working with UNICEF Sudan gives us access to communities outside of Khartoum that we would struggle to reach alone. UNICEF Sudan recognise that we are able to provide water safety expertise that they cannot provide without support. By working together, we are able to reach more people with the knowledge and skills they need than if we worked alone.
Action 11: Identify the members of your community who are at higher risk and deliver drowning prevention interventions that target those people
There is limited data on who drowns in Sudan and under what circumstances. Nile Swimmers uses a Drowning Risk Assessment Toolkit which includes community risk mapping to understand who is at most risk of drowning in a community and what interventions are best suited to those risks. We are working in partnership with the University of Medical Science and Technology’s Public Health department in Khartoum to develop a better understanding of the contributing factors to drowning in Sudan. This will further help to guide our work to target the right interventions at those most at risk.
Action 12: Provide education to people in your community including how to recognise a safely loaded boat and a good quality lifejacket.
As part of our risk mapping project with UNICEF Sudan, we have identified recurring issues around the safety of vessels on the Nile. There is work to do at a policy level to influence local authorities to monitor vessels for safe loading limits, and fine operators who exceed them. Currently, high-quality lifejackets are extremely difficult to source in Sudan, and are too expensive to be a meaningful risk reduction strategy for reducing transport-related drownings. We have had discussions with Vestability, and will continue to build that relationship to support the provision of high-quality and low-cost safety equipment in Sudan.
Action 13: Engage with humanitarian organisations to establish a Global Partnership for Drowning
The drowning prevention community is crying out for a united non-partisan, non-political, and transparent group where all are welcome in the spirit of collaboration and mutual support. We share ideas with a variety of other drowning prevention organisations including SWIM Cambodia, Swim Vietnam, Swim for Life Vietnam, Lifesaving South Africa, Make the Minute Matter and Vestability. Moreover, we support the view of David Meddings from the WHO that the drowning prevention community must break out of its silo and welcome partners from other sectors. Nile Swimmers strives to work with government, NGO and private sector partners from a wide range of sectors that can contribute to preventing drowning. Our current partners include the Ministry of Education in Khartoum, UNICEF Sudan and the Khartoum International Community School (KICS), all of whom bring something different to the table. We are eager to play an active role in a Global Partnership for Drowning as soon as one exists.