Focus Turns to Thousands That Drown Without Rescue

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Fredrick Oporia, a Researcher based at the Makerere University School of Public Health says at least 95% of the people do not use life jackets and often only a few of them get rescue support when they drown.
Last Year, the School of Public Health donated Life Bouys to Police Marines after they found them incapacitated to rescue victims.

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Paul Mawerere has been operating on the water for the last 16 years.  As a fisherman at Ggaba Landing Site, Mawerere is exposed to the risk of drowning each day.     

However, one experience has stuck. The day a hippo hit their boat, he could have lost his life, but he escaped because of wearing a life jacket.  

//Cue in: “We once drowned ……….    

Cue out: ……….. Danger of drowning”. //   


Since then, he says he puts on his life jacket before he ventures into the lake unlike many of his colleagues who often carry life jackets but rarely put them on.

Fredrick Oporia, a Researcher based at the Makerere University School of Public Health says at least 95% of the people do not use life jackets and often only a few of them get rescue support when they drown.  

In a study conducted in 14 districts last year, the school established that between 2016 and 2018, police, hospitals and mortuaries recorded 1,435 cases of drowning. In the same period, Village Health Teams (VHTs) identified an additional 2,066 cases of drowning through interviews with witnesses, friends, survivors and family members.


 //Cue in: “When we compare ………..           

Cue out: …………. Found Was 2066,”//  

The deaths ranged between 30 and 287 whereby many witnesses reported that they saw victims drown but had no way to help. He said this on Tuesday as Uganda joined the rest of the World to mark the first global Drowning Prevention Day, gazetted by the United Nations in April this year for countries to use the day annually on July 27th to jointly advocate for the prevention of drowning, a neglected injury that silently claims thousands of lives every year.

Henry Ategeka, the Principal Marine Inspector in the Ministry of Works and Transport, says that they estimate that two to three million Ugandans use water transport and many of the people use locally produced vessels. 

Noting Mayuge as one of the districts with the highest drowning rates and high number of locally made vessels, Ategeka says the new law, The Inland Water Transport Act 2020 which is about to be operationalized has provisions on both boat standards and protective gear, which will be applied together with a new policy to guide on saving drowning victims.  

//Cue in: “The new law ………..           

Cue out: …………. Supposed to be,”//  

While they would have saved many from drowning, Ubaldo Bunoba, the Commandant Police Marines, says water travellers always try to run away whenever they spot law enforcement officers even as sometimes other than arresting them, officers aim at sensitizing them on among others maintaining seaworthy vessels on water bodies.

Experts have pointed out that the reasons why people drown relate to the condition of the boat, weather conditions and the inability of travellers to swim. However, in the study, Oporia says that they found many people attributing the water accidents to myths to the extent that a lot of them go unreported. 

For instance, he says in some communities, people have been made to believe that drowning has to happen at a certain spot in a specific period of the year.  

///Cue in: “A lot of drowning ………..         

Cue out: …………. Can be changed”. //

For him, the grim picture of people dying on water can change by simple practices such as constant surveillance of the water bodies and ensuring that people understand how they can stay safe while using water transport.

He points out, many of their respondents reported colleagues preferring dying on the lake than being whipped by the UPDF Marine officers on Lake Victoria.  

//Cue in: “There were a number …………           

Cue out: ……………… miss your work,”//       

However, before all this comes into being, Ategeka says the government has embarked on distributing life jackets and has so far distributed 200 jackets to people around Lake Bunyonyi in South Western Uganda.

On his part, Sowedi Sewagudde, the Assistant Commissioner Transboundary Water Resources in the Ministry of Water and Environment, says they have started a program to groom children to be able to swim and save themselves in case of an accident.