Pool sector: challenges of teaching emerging nations to swim

Swimming pool sector faces severals challenges to help emerging nations giving everyone access to the proper infrastructures. Discover some ideas!

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Drowning is the third cause of accidental death in the world (1). And emerging nations are the most affected. What are the problems confronting the swimming pool sector and how can it give everyone access to the infrastructures necessary? Here are some ideas.


Read also: Learning to swim, 3 major challenges for Western countries

The problems specific to emerging nations

Drowning occurs much more frequently in these nations than in developed nations. The WHO indicates that (1):

  • 90% of deaths by accidental drowning occur in countries with low or intermediate incomes;
  • 50% of drownings in the world occur in the West Pacific and Southeast Asia;
  • the percentage of death by drowning in East Africa is 15 to 20 times higher than in Germany or the United Kingdom.

However, emerging nations do not lag behind the rest of the world in the number of swimming pools! Their high growth rate (between 2.2 and 7% a year in Asian countries) and their increase in purchasing power lead to a host of pool construction projects, in particular in hotels and public pools in condominiums. In Thailand, not less than 359 building permit demands were recently registered for public swimming pools (3). 

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The obstacles to swimming lessons

The specificity of these countries is that although the infrastructures exist, they are not accessible to all as most pools are in hotels.

Local government agencies lack resources. As a result, state schools seldom have access to pools nearby. It is however the children attending these schools who are most likely to drown by accident.

When they exist, public swimming pools lack safety equipment. Many do not have safety barriers, alarms or safety covers - or qualified monitors to supervise the swimming.
Lastly, countries affected by drought like Africa or without efficient water cleaning systems like Asia have great difficulties in getting hygienic water to fill pools.

Hosts of things to be done for pool sector

To solve the access problem the first thing to do is adapt existing public pools. Co-operation in the pool sector between developed and emerging nations can ensure the training and employment of qualified swimming instructors to provide the highest standards of swimming lessons and safety equipment.

Private owners could be encouraged to allow open access to their pools for swimming lessons during off-peak periods.

Several organizations already propose “hands-on” actions. For example:

  • In Bangladesh, Viet-Nam and Thailand the Australian SwimSafe program recruits and trains swimming instructors, installs portable swimming pools and proposes swimming lessons, including to schools.
  • The Ghanaian ONG Félix Foundation proposes swimming lessons in Ghana and runs awareness campaigns in schools.

When pools are not available locally, these organizations give talks to local populations, especially children, to teach them how to rescue someone who is drowning without risking their own lives.

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By making swimming fun available to all through co-operation, pool sector actors create a virtuous circle by which students transmit their love of swimming to their own children - which automatically leads to extra customers for public swimming pools and the construction of private pools. A win-win situation for everyone that can highly benefits the pool market!

(1) WHO: Key facts of drowning
(2) Unicef: Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate
(3) Swimming Pool Building Permit, 2015. Municipal Area, New constructions, National Office of Statistics – Building permit statistics

© Photo credit: Marc Richards / Pexels 

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