In October 2003, the late Roger Moore, aka MI6 Special Agent 007 and the then Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, was on a trip through Vietnam, partially to raise awareness on the main cause of death of Vietnamese children below the age of 14: Drowning!
Drowning is not only a major issue in Vietnam. Rather, it is a problem faced by the developing world in general. Globally, over 372,000 people die from drowning every year. Over 90% of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and half are under 25 years old.
Since Roger Moore’s visit in late 2003, the statistics in Vietnam have not fundamentally changed, and drowning remains the number 1 risk of death for children. In the three years between 2015 and 2017, over 6,000 children drowned in Vietnam – averaging almost 6 deaths per day. This can happen in the community (78%) or at home (22%). Over 55% of child victims come from rural, low-income families.
These dramatic numbers are primarily due to a lack of understanding of water hazards and water safety skills, a lack of adult supervision, an unsafe water environment, and natural disasters. Notably, the latter is becoming more important due to the impacts of climate change.
In mid 2018, LuxDev started implementing its first two climate change projects funded from climate finance through the Luxembourg Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development (MECSD): one in climate change adaptation, one in mitigation.
Following the lead of Sir Roger, adaptation intervention VIE/433 included survival swimming for school kids in its action plan. Being one of the most climate-vulnerable regions globally, facing frequent and severe floods, and having one of the largest lagoons (220 km2) in the world, partners identified swimming skills for children as a most appropriate activity under the project’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) component.
As a result, project VIE/433 joined hands with Hue Help, a British registered INGO, which since 2011, has trained 457 swimming coaches across Vietnam to international standards. Thirty of these coaches are physical education teachers in primary schools in the working area of project VIE/433, and in the last two years these coaches successfully trained 2,400 children aged 9-11, at a project cost of some 24,000 EUR, or 10 EUR per child.
At the first closing workshop in late 2019, leaders of the provincial and the three district education departments expressed their gratitude with this perhaps unusual, but highly relevant intervention that contributes to climate adaptation in a fundamental way and saves children’s lives.
Sources: WHO Global Report on Drowning, Hue Help data↑ Haut de la page