Prevention of drownings a focus area for SAMSA & NSRI during Nelson Mandela Month

Pretoria: 19 July 2023

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) kickstarts its annual Corporate Social Investment & Sustainability (CSI) programme on Nelson Mandela month with an initiative aimed at contributing to drownings prevention in Gauteng.

The SAMSA CSI initiative, involving mostly young people at school level, is being undertaken in partnership with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), a national organisation already engaged with the crisis since 2006.

“The target population will be school children in Gauteng where we plan to contribute to

their basic water handling skills, involving approximately 10 000 pupils from several schools located in communities across the social spectrum,” said SAMSA and the NSRI in a joint statement.

According to SAMSA, the decision by the entity to join the NSRI initiative this year is driven by its commitment to contributing annually to addressing identified socio-economic development needs of particularly the poor, deprived and marginalised. Drowning prevention was identified for this current year as but one such critical water-based crisis in South Africa requiring urgent attention.

According to SAMSA, a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) published in 2021 indicates that on average, 236 000 people deaths occur every year due to drowning.

Closer home, according to the National Library of Medicine (National Centre for Biotechnology Information), said SAMSA; South Africa is globally listed in the top 45 countries with a drowning rate of 4.06 per 100,000 population, or an average 1477 drownings per year, of which fatal drownings accounted for a rate of 2.54 per 100,000 population from 2016 to 2021

The National Library of Medicine states that: “…drowning is a serious public health concern with low-and-middle-income countries [being] the most affected by drowning, as they carry 90% of the global drowning burden.”

Furthermore, drowning is reported to be one of the leading causes of death among mostly people aged 1–24 years, thus denoting the population group that seems more vulnerable. Dr Jill Fortuin, Executive Director of Drowning Prevention Services at the NSRI states that since the inception of the NGO’s water safety programme in 2006 the organization has reached four (4) million children through the project.

“We are delighted as the NSRI that organizations such as the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) are collaborating with us to reach more people, specifically under 14’s through this programme,” she states.

In response, said SAMSA; “From a SAMSA perspective, it is a laudable achievement, but one that requires more support, hence our involvement this year directly with the NSRI.”

According to SAMSA, its CSI focus is shaped by the organisation’s period five-year trategic Plans (2020-25) and attendant Annual Performance Plans developed to advance and maintain consistent attainment of the entity’s mandate which encompasses ensuring safety of people and property at sea, prevention and combating of pollution of the sea by ships, promotion of South Africa’s maritime interest, as well as promotion of safe boating in the country’s inland waters.

“The consistent theme in the mandate is the promotion of safety of people and the environment, be it in our three oceans, the Atlantic, Southern and Indian Oceans; or in our vast inland waterways punctuated by hundreds of small and big dams as well water-based leisure facilities along dozens of rivers

“We are trying to reduce the drowning statistics in our country, and we are delighted in such partnerships as we would like to also change lives for the better and create futures, one child at a time,” said SAMSA.

The organisation also explained what it targeted Gauteng for the drownings prevention campaign support. “According to latest available data on drownings in South Africa, Gauteng is the province with the third highest drowning incidence in South Africa after KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, even as landlocked and being the smallest of the country’s nine provinces, and with the least number of rivers and dams compared to other provinces.

“As it were, according to the NSRI, inland locations in South Africa significantly contribute to the country’s drownings statistics. Meanwhile, it is highly significant that Gauteng just so happens to be home to the country’s highest provincial population (15.8-million 2021 estimates) inclusive of the most poor, deprived, and marginalised. It also holds the record for the highest incidence of drownings across all nine provinces in the 5-19 years age category.

Ms Mapitso Dlepu, Acting Executive Head: SAMSA Centre for Corporate Affairs and Head of SAMSA CSI

“We have joined forces with the NSRI expertise in this area and we specifically chose to run the campaign in July because this year is the 10th anniversary of Madiba’s passing, thereby making it fit with the theme of The Legacy Lives on Through You”, said SAMSA Acting Head of the Centre for Corporate Affairs, Government and International Relations, and head of SAMSA CSI.

Ms Dlepu said key outputs planned would include 10 000 persons receiving Water Safety Education Lessons, deployment of 46 Pink Rescue Buoys, provision of 460 Survival Swimming Lessons and orientation of 46 Drowning Prevention Champions

“To kick start this project we have selected Glen Austin Primary School as the first beneficiary and this school has 200 children who range from Grade 1 to Grade 7. This is the critical age in which they need to be water safe as they are the most vulnerable,” Dr Jill added.

In addition to this, in the summer season, survival swimming lessons would be taught to persons who are residing in the area in which the NSRI teaches survival swimming lessons in the Gauteng province.

End.

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