Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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You don’t need food if you’re dead.

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on June 22, 2011

Pretty harsh, but it’s true. If your child is dead they don’t need food, water, health care, clothing or education.

This harsh truth finally upended a mental roadblock that has bothered me for several years. How to justify teaching children to swim if they are struggling for even the basics? Isn’t swimming a ‘luxury’? Then a friend told me a story of two girls in Vietnam who were faced with the choice of being kidnapped by child traffickers or drowning in the Mekong Delta. They chose the Delta. This story ate at me for several days until a lightbulb went off – if the girls had been taught to survive in the water – not swim, but survive – would they still be alive, and free?

I contacted my friend at Water Survival and asked the question and his answer (after experiencing the same sick feeling over those girls) was an emphatic, ‘yes, they could have survived’. Water survival can be taught to children as young as 6. Lifesaving Society Canada also has a ‘Swim to Survive’ program. Both courses can teach basic survival in 3-8 hours.

Surviving is the most basic skill, regardless of where you live. Teaching water safety and fundamental water survival skills should be as common as providing children with food, shelter, vaccines, and basic hygiene.

One child drowns every minute and it can happen to anyone, anywhere. It doesn’t happen ‘just’ to other people, and it happens just as fast in the backyard pool as in the Mekong Delta. Our children need to know how to survive if they fall into the water – all of them.

Survival is not a luxury.

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