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Water safety in Fiji

Solomoni Biumaiono
Thursday, December 06, 2012

Brownyn Soko is hoping to put her lifesaving and life -guard skills to good use by helping as a volunteer for the Australian Red Cross to establish the Fiji Water Safety Council.

If the Council is successful in becoming a formal body looking after water safety in Fiji it can directly help keep drowning levels down with the less likely occurrence of people missing while out at sea.

Even though Soko has been in Fiji since 2005, first starting off as an Australian Youth Ambassador and later as volunteer for the AUSAID International Development Program, her skills as a life saver has come in handy most recently.

Her assignment before her current stint as a volunteer with the Water Safety Council was training police officers in lifesaving skills.

"Back in Victoria there used to be flat waters of the bays, the surfing beaches as well as pool guards who are part of the structure that is used to ensure water safety and that is something we are working towards here in Fiji," Soko said.

The Water Safety Council has been established and awaiting government's formalisation.

Their main priority is establishing policies and structures that can ensure that first aid knowledge, lifesaving skills and other skills and knowledge about water safety is widely available to members of the public.

"Most of the time, it is not the structure that is important, as it is more important that people are educated on water safety and the need for them to follow advice from authorities like the weather people or the police or any other authorities, so that the people in Kadavu and those in Taveuni know what to do in times of danger," Soko explained.

She said drowning was the biggest killer for children younger than five years old, around the world, more than road accidents, communicable diseases or accidents caused at home.

Fiji is no exception.

Soko said life jackets are not a usual part of boats travelling the country's seas and most times, this is ignored by boat owners themselves.

"We feel that, apart from educating villagers and everyone about precautionary measures to be taken while at sea or even around flooded areas, there is also the need for people to heed advice given to them," she said.

Soko said, as a volunteer who has much knowledge about water safety, through her organisation, the Australian Red Cross, she will try to ensure that the Water Safety Council readily shares knowledge to all the various communities around Fiji, both in the rural as well urban areas.

"It's more about a water safety culture which we can have Fiji develop, where we can target villagers as well as those who are with children especially susceptible, because one, they have unrestricted access to water, and two, the lack of supervision sometimes," she said.

"Because children don't know about current, wind conditions or the unforeseen dangers associated with flooded waterways, to them, getting fun is what they all know.

"So this is where knowledge comes in and the sharing of this knowledge with everyone," she said.