The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) will include in its budget for 2020, 2021 and 2022, the sum of US $ 500,000 annually to establish a lifeguard program on several of the most dangerous beaches in the country, in a strategic alliance with the Red Cross and with the Benemérito Fire Department.

Additionally, the ICT Board of Directors approved, on Monday, April 1st, an agreement for ¢ 150 million with the Costa Rican Red Cross to hire at least 20 lifeguards for the beaches of Manuel Antonio, Ballena, and Cocles-Manzanillo. This program will be enabled in the 2nd semester of this year; July thru December.

Group of Red Cross lifeguards in one of the beaches of Costa Rica

The announcement was made on Tuesday (yesterday) by the Minister of Tourism, María Amalia Revelo, at the press conference that took place in the Presidential House, after the session of the Governing Council. “To allocate a greater amount of resources for a lifeguard program will improve the response capacity to address the different incidents involving bathers, actions that directly affect the international image of Costa Rica as a safe tourist destination”, said Revelo, who promotes different measures to address suffocation deaths by submersion in rivers and coasts.

The approved amount of US$ 1.5 million for the next 3 years will cover the riskiest beaches of our coasts, which, due to their geomorphological condition, represent a risk for those who visit them. In the medium term, the objective is to work with local governments and the private sector to promote public-private partnerships that allow this program to be established definitively in our country.

According to data from the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ), 129 people died last year from asphyxiation by submersion, 54 in a river and 51 in the sea. Of these 129 deaths, 59 (46%) were registered in the province of Puntarenas; 19 (15%) in Guanacaste and 19 (15%) in Limón.

A study by the Hispano-American University published at the beginning of 2019 confirmed that 2,981 people lost their lives in the sea, river, well or pool between 1990 and 2014, an average of 124 per year. Of these, 2,538 (85%) were men and 443 (15%) women.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year drowning by submersion take the lives of 372,000 people worldwide and are among the 10 leading causes of death of children and young people in all regions. That is why the WHO calls to significantly strengthen the efforts and resources to prevent drowning and save lives.

The previous year, the ICT labeled 100 beaches with information on currents of hangovers, which were selected for their high number of visitation, both local and foreign tourists, as well as the local risk index. Statistics from the ICT have highlighted that between 70% and 80% of tourists who visit Costa Rica perform sun and beach activities.