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.
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.
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.
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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
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.
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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
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.