Authorities consider Latvia's grim drowning statistics

On average, 7 to 10 children under the age of 19 lose their lives in drowning every year in Latvia. The main reason is a lack of swimming skills and knowledge about water safety, according to the Swimming Federation and the organization "Swim Safely", Latvian Radio reports April 9.

In Latvia, around 100 children and young people under the age of 19 have drowned in the last 10 years. Swim lessons are provided in only 29% of comprehensive schools, Aivars Platonovs, head of the Latvian Swimming Federation, told the Saeima's Sports Sub-Committee. Moreover, some schools implement this training for one year, some for two years or more, so the approach varies widely. 

"One of the main reasons why people die in the water is that they think they are very good swimmers, but in reality, they are very poor swimmers.

"What we are seeing, however, is that no funding is being found [..], while at the same time 16 million is being allocated for international sporting events. Then the credibility [..] that this is a priority is lost," said Platonovs.

Non-governmental organizations have been raising this issue for several years, talking about it to various committees of the Saeima, but the issue has not been addressed. And the organizations have not once been invited to the Ministry of Education to discuss solutions for the implementation of the program, Platonovs said, concluding that there is currently no political will to address the issue.

The Ministry of Education said that it had asked to support the initiative of the swimming training program, but the government did not support it and the money was not allocated.

The money will now be requested for the following year, at EUR 1.6 million, and for each year thereafter EUR 3.2 million will be requested. 

The State Education Content Center, for its part, said that the swimming results that pupils must achieve at the end of Years 3, 6, and 9 were already included in the education standards. However, this training is not compulsory and depends on the infrastructure available in the school, and water safety should then be taught "at least in theory".

Latvia currently has around 50 swimming pools. The Swimming Federation indicates that around 75% of all children can be trained with the existing infrastructure. The Federation added that even if money is allocated, a joint swimming education program is still miles away. 

The Sports Sub-Committee of the Saeima is scheduled to review this issue at the beginning of June. 

As repeatedly reported by LSM over the years, Latvia has a serious problem with a huge number of drownings and other water tragedies every year. Latvia consistently tops European league tables for drownings per capita with dozens of deaths both in summer and in winter when reckless fishermen regularly fall through the ice. Statistics show that on average, a dead person is removed from the water every three days: 122 people in 2020, 100 in 2021, 94 in 2022, and 111 in 2023.

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