The Deputy Defense Minister for Operations, St. Jerome Lablalee, has assured authorities of Lifesaving-Liberia, Incorporated of his ministry’s willingness to assign soldiers from the Coast Guard Company of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to train its lifeguards or civilian divers that would be designated at every beach in Monrovia and its immediate environs.
Minister Lablalee, who served as proxy for Minister of National Defense Brownie J. Samukai at a program marking this year’s National Beach Safety Week, told his audience that the lifesaving project is one of the most patriotic duties ever established in Liberia, because it saves lives in danger, mostly at sea.
“The ministry is willing to partner with authorities of Lifesaving-Liberia, because its aim is part of the Liberian Coast Guard mandate, including search and seizure along the country’s territorial waters, the beaches as well as the waterways. Minister Samukai has assured that officers of the Coast Guard would provide additional training to the lifesavers, to be followed by logistical support in the coming years, to enhance their performance,” Lablalee told the gathering to a round of applause.
He pledged the ministry’s initial contribution of L$10,000 to Lifesaving-Liberia.
This year’s National Beach Safety Week, which began last Friday at a resort in Monrovia under the theme, “A Call for Increased Efforts to Prevent the Risk of Drowning in Liberia,” is expected to end on Wednesday, with a highlight of safety in the aquatic environment and its economic benefits to the government.
Alfred S. Jones, a retired AFL Captain who was previously assigned with the Liberian Coast Guard, is Lifesaving-Liberia’s executive director. He said the stakeholders’ conference followed Friday’s launch to educate the public about the dangers of swimming at the beach without the guidance of a trained diver or lifesaver.
Lifesaving-Liberia is a non-profit drowning prevention organization dedicated to improving water safety by working with aquatic recreational facilities, local communities, private and public schools as well as individuals at risk since 2010.
“Drowning is a serious threat because we have observed that hundreds of young citizens and foreign residents have died by drowning in Liberia every year especially at the commencement of the biggest summer beach season on November 29, the birth anniversary of the country’s 18th President, William V.S. Tubman,” said the retired Captain.
Jones attributed the high rate of drowning to the proliferation of unsafe beaches operating in Monrovia and its environs. Currently, he said there are 52 of such beaches and 19 swimming pools operating in the Monrovia area without lifeguards or other safety measures. “This accounts for a significant number of drownings,” he said.
Friday’s ceremony was attended by a representative from the Department of Tourism at the Ministry of Information, who educated students, especially beach goers, on some swimming methods aimed at reducing some of the personal risks in and around waters. Students from the St. Edward’s Catholic School, Elder John Massy High School and the New Era International School also attended the event.
The program began with a parade by hundreds of students from Broad Street to the beach resort to listen to Deputy Minister Lablalee.