Best Practice

Service to Society: Indian Olympians aiming to reduce drowning deaths

25 | 1 | 2018

“Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation,” said Olympic swimmer Hakimuddin Habibulla OLY. “And an estimated 20 per cent of those fatalities - 75,000 deaths - are thought to occur in India.”

Supported by the Olympians Association of India and World Olympians Association, ‘India SWIMS (Swimming and Water safety is My Solution) to Prevent Drowning’ aims to promote water safety awareness to schools and swimming clubs around the country, in a bid to address the country’s startling drowning rates.

The project, which was a recipient of a 2017 WOA Service to Society grant, is bringing together Olympians from India and around the world to promote awareness and distribute education and prevention tools.

“We hope to bring attention to this important issue by providing access to much-needed water safety education and training materials to communities across the country,” continued Habibulla. “Knowledge is power and in this case it will hopefully help act as a vital prevention tool to teach young and old alike how to engage with water safely.”

During the project launch at Rescue India 2017 - India’s National Pool, Beach & Ocean Lifesaving Championships in Goa, Habibulla, the project’s founder, was joined by Gagan Ullalmath OLY (Swimming, London 2012). The event attracted over 400 participants who were encouraged to take the India SWIMS Pledge.

“We hope to share the message of water safety with as many people as possible,” said Ullalmath. “If we can reach even one child and prevent unnecessary drowning we will have made an important difference.”

The project will include the production of 1,000 water safety kits to be distributed to targeted schools and clubs in high incident areas in India. This will be supported by engagement sessions with Olympic swimmers, who will share essential life saving tips and techniques.

Service to Society

The Service to Society Grant programme was launched by WOA in 2016 to help fund Olympian-led, sustainable community projects that align with the promotion of the Olympic values, Olympic Agenda 2020 and the activities of the Olympic Movement. 

Six recipients were awarded grants in the inaugural round of funding in 2017. The successful projects from Australia, Colombia, Estonia, India, Malaysia and Zimbabwe have seen Olympians across the world work to better society through sport. The successful recipients of 2018 grants are due to be announced soon.