Tuesday January 5 2016

Calculating the actual cost of death

By James Abola

Two days after Christmas, news started filtering through that several people had died in the waters of Lake Victoria during the Christmas period and that some of the bodies were being washed onto the beaches in Entebbe. Five days after the deaths were thought to have occurred, the total number of the dead and the cause of their death was not yet known.
How is it that more than 10 people, perhaps three times that number, turn up dead in relatively calm waters when there had neither been a boat accident nor a tsunami? What or who caused this unusually high water shore casualty? Those are questions which I hope the investigative authorities will find answers to soon enough.

Whenever a person dies, it causes emotional and social distress to family members and friends. For celebrities, their fans are also distressed. But death also creates economic distress.
The burial expense is the most obvious cost associated with death. The amount spent is influenced by the distance between the place of death and the burial location, the beauty of the coffin and the grave, the cost of feeding and hosting mourners. On the low-end, the cost is above a million but the higher-end burial easily costs tens or even hundreds of millions of Shillings.

There are other costs and expenses such as the mourner’s expense which is the amount spent by individual mourners to travel to the funeral service or burial venue. Mourners also take time away from income generating activities to go mourning. The more the number of gainfully employed mourners, the higher the loss of income. The loss of income or income opportunity by the deceased is another important cost that is not often considered. When a person dies at, say 23 years, the whole income for their working life until retirement is lost. There is also the actual loss of the money spent on raising the person.

When a nation has a high number of untimely deaths, that is people dying before life expectancy; unnecessary deaths, that is, people dying out of carelessness and unacceptable deaths, that is, people dying from causes that could have been eradicated, the development of such a nation is delayed. Let us work on reducing untimely, unnecessary and unacceptable deaths in 2016. Happy New Year.

James Abola is the Team Leader of Akamai Global, a business and finance consulting firm. Email: james.abola@akamaiglobal.co.uk