Govt launches 272C project to teach 200,000 children to swim

The Bangladesh Shishu Academy has been tasked with implementing the project, while district children’s affairs officers will coordinate at the field level

The government has launched a Tk271.82 crore project to provide day-care facilities through which 200,000 in 45 upazilas of 16 districts will receive swimming lessons.

State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Fazilatunnesa Indira officially launched the Integrated Community-based Centre for Child Care, Protection and Swim-Safe Facilities project at the Hotel Intercontinental in Dhaka on Sunday.

She said the project would be expanded nationwide if it proves successful in reducing child drownings.

“Raising the parents' awareness is one of the main objectives because we believe their role is instrumental in preventing child drownings,” she said. 

The Bangladesh Shishu Academy has been tasked with implementing the project, while district children’s affairs officers will coordinate at the field level.

Kelly Larson, director of road safety, drowning prevention, and Partnership for Healthy Cities programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies, said at the launch event that drowning prevention is an underrecognized issue and Bangladesh is doing well in addressing it.

“We commit to supporting the Bangladesh government to ensure that all children grow well and are protected,” she said.

Dr Anwar Hossain Howlader, secretary of the Women and Children Affairs Ministry, said training and education are required for childcare and protection, and these day-care centres help address the issues. 

“The major objective of this project is childcare. We believe that we can't make the children assets of our country without proper care in early childhood,” he said.

Steve Wills, head of International Programs at Royal National Lifeboat Institution, said millions die every year from drowning and children are the most vulnerable.

“Bangladesh is leading the way in preventing child drowning,” he said.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has developed a comprehensive day-care model, tested for years since 2012, and promoted the model to the government for expansion.

The government project has been undertaken considering the prevalence of deaths by drowning among children in rural areas.

Lucky Enam, chairperson of Bangladesh Shishu Academy, said the project will educate parents about child protection and teach children aged six to 10 years old how to swim.

When asked how this kind of program can be made sustainable, Kelly Larson said: “We have the commitment from the government to support this project and support the government to ensure effective and sustainable implementation.”

The project has already demonstrated that community day-care can save lives, particularly those of one to four-year-olds, from drowning, she said.

Stressing the importance of the role of the civil society, she said civil society members should continue advocating for these kinds of initiatives.

“This is an amazing start to support drowning prevention. Drowning claims over 10,000 one to four years olds every year in Bangladesh, and seventeen thousand children if we go up to teens. Bangladesh is prioritizing this most vulnerable age group in its policy,” she said.