Extract from an original article by Safety 4 Sea. The full article is available at here.
In an interview for Safety4Sea, IMRF Trustee Mohammed Drissi spoke about what he calls "Africa's silent killer": drowning. Drowning causes the most deaths globally after malaria and malnutrition. But this fact is little known, and not sufficiently focussed on. Drowning has become the silent epidemic and is, unfortunately, often out of sight and out of mind.’
Reducing deaths from drowning is a central pillar of the work currently being facilitated by the IMRF and the continent of Africa has become a recent focus of attention. Sadly, there is a close correlation between poverty, lack of education and high mortality rates and many African nations need help to address the many deaths that are attributed to drowning. Facilitating a greater awareness of the causes of drowning, coupled with assistance to enhance the management and practical capabilities of maritime search & rescue (SAR) activities in Africa, has been spearheaded by IMRF Trustee, Mohammed Drissi who is also head of the SAR bureau in Morocco.
IMRF’s work in Africa is funded by a range of partners including the Technical Cooperation Committee (TCC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Working hand-in-hand with IMO, IMRF’s aim is to create a sustainable difference. The first step, according to Drissi, is to help national authorities establish facilities that comply with IMO’s SAR plan and, in particular, the development of fully functional maritime rescue coordination centres (MRCCs). But sustainability is the key. Experience has taught IMRF that there is little point in running a handful of classroom sessions and hoping for the best. Locals must be given a hands-on opportunity to set up their systems and processes themselves. Interconnectivity is also a key to success and requires building communications, relationships and trust.
Fostering political will to operate a sustainable and efficient SAR capability is also essential if IMRF is to achieve workable results. As a United Nations Agency, IMO is also furthering achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the empowerment of women and girls, by working to increase the number of women operating in the maritime sector. IMRF members push hard for the inclusion of women in SAR trainings but, although the number of women SAR professionals is growing, local attitudes can sometimes be a challenge.
IMRF recognises that there is much work to be done to reduce the drowning statistics in Africa and the programme of work currently underway will significantly enhance the safety of the local population, as well as the transient maritime community. Thanks to the generosity of its funders and the expertise of its members, IMRF is making a real difference in the coastal and inland nations of Africa.
Looking ahead, IMRF will continue its work in Africa to build on current successes. The World Health Organisation refers to drowning as a “leading global killer” and IMRF is working hard to make Africa less of a victim.