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New life-saving drowning prevention program in Vietnam

Drowning is a silent epidemic, claiming 360,000 lives per year, with more than 90 percent of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. In Vietnam, an average of seven children drown every single day, which makes drowning the country’s leading cause of death in children under 15. The Vietnamese government recognized this devastating problem, and as a result it identified drowning prevention as a key priority.

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator worked closely with key government ministries to fulfill their commitment to reducing drowning deaths by designing a program that would be effective, relevant and accepted by local communities. The program focuses on teaching survival swimming and water safety skills to children ages 6 to 15 and is tailored to local circumstances and demand. We assembled a Hanoi-based team of experts to develop a brand new program that would build on the Vietnamese government’s commitment to child safety in order to prevent drownings and save lives.

To establish baseline data for child drowning in Vietnam, we partnered with Hanoi University of Public Health and the local office of the World Health Organization. The partnership between the Global Health Advocacy Incubator, Bloomberg Philanthropies, WHO and the ministries yielded an agreement to create a five-year program implementing a data-driven intervention to prevent child drowning.

The new program was launched in June 2018 with a memorable ceremony in Hanoi, featuring National Assembly and government representatives, including the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (the lead agency for implementation) and the Ministry of Education and Training, the Sport Committee, drowning prevention collaborative groups, celebrities, high-profile influencers and our implementing partners. The launch event earned widespread national media coverage, including breaking news coverage on top television stations and more than 60 print and online articles. With the successful launch event cementing their commitment to collaboration, the partners are currently planning interventions in eight provinces across Vietnam.