Bangladesh has made swimming lessons mandatory in schools to try to save the thousands of children who drown every year, a government official said Thursday. Around 18,000 children between the age of five and 17 drown in low-lying Bangladesh every year because they do not know how to swim, according to the United Nations Children`s Fund (UNICEF).
But some say the directive will be hard to implement because of a lack of pools in urban areas.
Drowning has been described as a hidden epidemic in Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries in the world and situated in the low-lying Ganges River delta.
The victims are mostly children from poor sections of society who live close to major rivers, ponds and lakes.
Ponds are the main bathing place for more than two-thirds of the country’s 160 million people.
Education Secretary Nazrul Islam Khan told AFP news agency that an average of 48 people drown every day in Bangladesh.
“It’s a huge figure, which is 20 times higher than Australia,” he said.
He said one in four deaths of children under four was caused by drowning.
The BBC understands the government is to ask schools to provide monthly progress reports.
UNICEF has already introduced a project to provide swimming lessons in Bangladesh.