Nile Swimmers Project-Sudan

The Nile Swimmers Project

It is estimated that globally approximately 1 million people drown each year. The Nile Swimmers Project is the practical arm of Nile Swimmers, turning ideas from The Alliance into action.


Where and when
The Nile Swimmers Project is run on the Blue Nile, about an hour outside of Khartoum in Sudan. Each 'project' usually lasts for approximately 2 weeks. The last project was run in October 2011.

What we do
We share swimming and lifesaving skills, and facilitate wider discussion on innovative prevention methods. The River Nile bisects North East Africa from South to North, running across boundaries that continue to see conflict stemming from ethnic, religious, and economic tension between tribes and political groups. We bring together people from villages spread the length of the River Nile and the surrounding area. Our participants come from varying backgrounds; from refugees to fishermen. However all have one thing in common, the importance of the river to their community livelihoods and the common threat of drowning.

The project engages participants in cross-cultural team building activities, building social cohesion and creating pride and awareness of responsibility.

It is hoped that this cross-cultural approach will also contribute to peace by developing social cohesion between groups previously engaged in conflict. The participants will develop life skills - including leadership and communication skills – that could be used for personal development, political advocacy, or for community engagement.

Given that Africa has the world's highest drowning mortality rate, the River Nile poses a major threat to the lives of thousands of villagers who depend on the river for survival. As such, the ten-day training program from 21 October 2011 was designed to provide essential drowning prevention, swimming, water rescue and emergency first aid skills to 15 participants from villages along the length of the river, who will then transfer their water safety knowledge and skills to their own communities.

The Nile Swimmers Project is a joint initiative with the Sudanese Sea Scouts and works to reduce the occurrence of drowning deaths along the River Nile. It is the first large-scale drowning prevention project to be implemented on the river at a community level.

The training program was successfully held in 2007 and 2008, and now has full technical support from many national and international organizations including the Sudanese Sea Scouts, The Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth, Rescue 3 Europe and Rights and Humanity.

Tom Mecrow, Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth instructor, former Rights and Humanity intern, and co-founder of The Nile Swimmers Project, said “This is an excellent opportunity for a community based approach to tackle a leading cause of death in Sudan. Despite the river being used for daily chores, fishing and transportation, very few people in Sudan know how to swim and water safety guidelines on boats are rarely put into practice.”

“By taking a community based approach and building the capacity of local villagers, the project aims to create a bottom-up response to drowning, which has been shown to be effective in Europe, Australia, and parts of South East Asia,” Mr Mecrow added.

Each year, one million people drown globally. 96% of these drowning deaths occur in low and middle income countries, which is around 6 times higher than drowning rates in developed countries.

To date, no research has been carried out on the exact drowning figures along the River Nile, however volunteer coordinator and Nile Swimmers co-founder Tilal Salih says that in the hundreds of interactions he has had with river communities in Sudan, the majority of villagers know someone who has lost their life in the river.
Mr Salih said “It is estimated by the World Health Organization that Africa has one of the highest continental rates of drowning in the world. What we aim to achieve with this training program is to show communities that drowning is preventable. By providing these innovative training sessions free to participants, and providing a platform for communities to develop locally relevant and low-cost interventions, we believe we can save many lives from drowning along the River Nile.”

“Everyone in Sudan knows that drowning on the River Nile is a massive problem. Now is the time to do something about it,” Mr Salih added.

While the project is currently being implemented in Sudan, with additional funding The Nile Swimmers Project aims to expand into all countries in the Nile Basin.

“Our aim is to see The Nile Swimmers Project and training sessions replicated in every village along the River Nile” says internationally accredited instructor and co-founder Dan Graham. “The nature of the river changes significantly along its length and as it flows through 11 countries. As such, local interventions must be developed and local communities must take ownership of this initiative to ensure water safety principles are adopted in all villages.”

The Nile Swimmers Project also aims to promote sustainable peace by bringing together people from different backgrounds, often previously engaged in or affected by conflict.

Mr Graham added “Participants in the training program will also gain personal and professional skills and be trained in wider leadership and facilitation skills, public health awareness and team building, enabling them to contribute to the social and political development of their community on their return home.”

The Nile Swimmers Project training program ran between 21 October and 1 November 2011 in Sudan, approximately one hour south of Khartoum. More information about the project can be found at

Success Update:
Nile Swimmers Project Success, November 2011: 13 new drowning prevention experts on the River Nile

Thirteen new graduates from the Nile Swimmers Project are now returning home to communities across Sudan as drowning prevention experts, better equipped to reduce the devastating numbers of drowning deaths occurring every year on the River Nile.

Through the Nile Swimmers Project these young men have completed an intensive course, which has taught them the latest swimming, rescue and resuscitation techniques as well as building their leadership capacities, teaching skills and wider drowning prevention knowledge.

Most people in Sudan know someone, or know of someone, who has died as a result of drowning. These deaths are preventable and the Nile Swimmer graduates will now return to their homes and villages armed with the knowledge to develop and implement drowning prevention strategies that work for their areas and that will save lives.

Nile Swimmers co-founder Tom Mecrow says “The success of the Nile Swimmers Project in Sudan shows that a community based approach is effective in resource limited settings. The key to this success has been our partnership with the Sudanese Sea Scouts, and we hope that we can develop similar local partnerships in other countries.”

The project was run with international support from The Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth and Rights and Humanity, and local support from the Sudanese Sea Scouts.

The Scouts have committed to using the new trainers to train at least 500 people along the length of the River Nile in Sudan in swimming and lifesaving skills over the next year. They will also introduce a new lifesaving ‘badge’ for their members to achieve.

The BBC, Al Jazeera and Blue Nile TV have all covered the project, in addition to nine newspaper articles talking about the story in Sudan.

For more information about the Nile Swimmers Project please visit their website: or join the active facebook group:

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