(CNN)The Nile River is known as the "giver of life," but to the people that live along its banks, it can also be a symbol of death.
According to estimates from the World Health Organization, 372,000 people drown yearly. More than 90% of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. And while most cases go unreported, drowning is a huge issue in Sudan.
Last July, the Dutch ambassador to Sudan, Susan Blankhart, promised to swim across the Nile if the embassy's Facebook page hit 10,000 likes. On Saturday, she lived up to that promise, donning a bright orange swimsuit (in keeping with the country's colors) and swimming from one bank of the river to the other.
"Through the challenge I discovered a whole world I didn't know about," says Ambassador Blankhart. "I came into contact with the Nile Swimmers and the whole issue of drowning in Sudan," referring to a UK-based charity.
"The Nile represents both hope and fear to Sudanese people," says Tilal Salih, the charity's founder. "Most families here have lost someone to the Nile."
As many public swimming holes are segregated by gender in the Sudan, having enough female lifeguards is imperative. Nile Swimmers, which started in 2007, has trained around 150 water safety instructors in basic rescue skills and swimming structures in rural areas in Sudan and South Sudan. The organization also works with Sudan's ministry of education to provide water safety education within schools to raise awareness and understanding of the dangers posed by the Nile.
"We aim to teach children in public schools, located around the Nile, how to safely interact with the water," says Tilal.
In line with their ethos, Nile Swimmers sent some of the youngest sea scouts to cross the Nile with Ambassador Blankhart. Among them was 12-year-old Tala Shihab.
"It was a pleasure to swim with the Ambassador," says Tala. "I really hope this pushes more girls to learn how to swim."
Traversing the muddy waters of the Nile, Ambassador Blankart was joined by six other Dutch Women and seven Sudanese women, all proudly sporting garish orange swimming gear. Jovial shouts of "female power!" were heard coming from the group before they took the plunge.
Partnering up with Nile Swimmers and the Dutch Don't Drown foundation -- a charity working to prevent drowning among young people, the Khartoum Sea Scouts -- a Sudanese lifeguard group, and food conglomerate DAL Group, the ambassador turned a light-hearted social media challenge into a campaign to raise awareness against drowning and promote female empowerment in Sudan.
"Women can find each other in so many ways. Sports is one way women can find and support each other."