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RNLI sees donation surge after being forced to defend its work saving lives overseas

The RNLI says less than 2% of annual expenditure is spent outside the UK and Ireland.

The RNLI says it uses its expertise to prevent drowning across the globe.
The RNLI says it uses its expertise to prevent drowning across the globe.
Image: PA Images

THE RNLI HAS seen a surge of donations over the past couple of days after the organisation was forced to defend its efforts in preventing drowning outside the UK and Ireland.

The RNLI said in a statement yesterday that its international work has been “reported in detail in our annual reports going back several years” and that it accounts for less than 2% of annual expenditure. 

The statement came after a number of news stories in the Times and MailOnline reported on the RNLI’s use of £3.3 million-a-year to fund international work. 

Both outlets specifically focused on the RNLI funding the purchase of burkini swimsuits for young girls in Zanzibar at a time when the organisation is cutting 135 staff in the UK.  

In its statement, the RNLI says its job is to save lives and that includes the lives of people outside the UK and Ireland. 

It outlined that it does not operate RNLI lifeboat or lifeguard services outside the UK and Ireland but is “dedicated to drowning reduction”.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 320,000 people drown each year worldwide and we believe that with others, we should use our lifesaving expertise to try and help tackle this. Our work so far has shown that simple, inexpensive solutions are very effective; a relatively low investment in overseas projects goes a long way and makes a big difference.

“We currently spend less than 2% of the RNLI’s total annual expenditure on our international drowning prevention activity…….Providing the very best search and rescue service in the UK and Ireland remains our priority but we are also proud to use our expertise, knowledge and influence to help others save lives across the world, particularly in countries where drowning rates are high.”

The RNLI also said its founder Edmund Hillary wanted the organisation to share their expertise “to the most remote corners of the globe” and that this view “remains relevant today.”

Specifically addressing the funding of bikinis, the RNLI said: 

The Panje Project teaches women swim survival skills in Zanzibar. The burkini, which is a full length swim suit is an innovative (and cheap) way of enabling girls in strict Muslim countries, to get into the water without compromising their cultural and religious beliefs.

Since the initial stories were published and following the RNLI’s response, many people have been sharing online that they’ve donated to its ongoing work.

The group itself has thanked those who have donated or “sent messages of support” over the past few days.

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Rónán Duffy

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