Written by Ananya Pandit Bajla
Edited by Amra Naidoo & Sing Suen Soon
Pristine Waters. Pebble beaches. Perfect white sand. Vietnam is a South East Asian country on the South China Sea that boasts of more than two thousand miles of coastline, about 2300 rivers with more than 5000 river vessels and ferries. (Source)
However, safety measures are limited in the country. Many of these facilities do not have enough life jackets or lifesaving equipment. Beaches and waterways have no protection and many pit areas, whirlpools have no warning signs.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that drowning is the leading cause of death from injury in Vietnam. The fatalities are particularly high for young children who are often faced with this hazard once they turn old enough to walk and roam scot-free without their mother’s supervision. It is appalling to know that thirty-two children die from drowning every day in Vietnam. In fact, international aid agencies such as UNICEF and TASC have often described it as the “Silent Epidemic” plaguing the country.
One area particularly affected is that of Hue, a province in the north central coast region of Vietnam. Aside from the predominance of water bodies, this province is frequently flooded with torrential rains that make the children even more vulnerable. What further adds to the risk factor is the faulty housing structures and lack of rudimentary swimming skills amongst those most severely affected.
Considering the tragic situation, Hue Help, a NGO set up in Central Vietnam has endeavoured to provide water safety education in areas needed the most. They impart basic swimming lessons to children and teach them about the dangers of open water, water safety, survival skills, and how to rescue others in emergencies.
After having launched a successful “Swimming for Safety” programme in 2011, one of their current goals is to reduce the number of girls suffering from injuries or fatalities due to water related incidents. In a country where drowning hazards are aplenty, the number of girls having the ability to swim needs to increase dramatically. Hue Help is now focusing on rural Vietnam where the exposure to water bodies is higher due to interlacing system of numerous rivers. They want to equip 1,200 girls from 20 schools in Thua Tien Hue Province with swimming skills, and empower 20 female teachers from these schools with the knowledge to continue the project.
To strengthen their programmes, Hue Help have collaborated with several noteworthy organisations such as Swimming Teachers Association (STA), and Nordic Assistance to Vietnam (NAV) to disseminate formal swimming tuition to girls in schools. This approach not only allows Hue Help to target a much wider audience locally, but also contributes significantly to the sustainability of the programme.
So far, Hue Help and their partners have taught over 1000 girls from rural areas surrounding Hue. Their strong focus on safety for women and girls caught the attention of a social entrepreneurship competition by the Singapore Committee for UN Women and Mastercard, called Project Inspire. As a semi-finalist of Project Inspire, they are now looking to raise US$6000 through the competition to reach out to those who need their help. You can learn more about Hue Help and support their campaign on http://www.projinspire.com/.