Mr Emmanuel Agaba, a bodaboda motorcyclist at the Nakawa Spear House stage, was hired by a person he thought was a passenger to take him to Stretcher-Ntinda, a Kampala suburb last Friday.
Mid-way through the journey, he found another person.
The rest is history. Agaba is admitted to Mulago Ward 3A, with severe head wounds, his face wrapped in plasters. He has no caretaker at the moment. “I do not know what they hit me with, it was either a stick or an iron bar or a hammer. I don’t remember any other thing apart from knowing that the motorcycle was taken by the two people,” Mr Agaba says in agony.
An inspection through the ward sends a striking message. Nearly half of the beds have victims with the same cases, coupled with shattered skulls and loss of memory. At least two people die daily at Mulago National Referral Hospital from head injuries resulting from motorcycle accidents according to doctors at the facility. The deaths are not only caused by an increased inflow of accident victims but also a shortage of specialised doctors to carry out surgery on the victims.
Currently, there are only four surgeons at the hospital against the at least 10 people who are brought in and need surgery daily. The doctors say of those patients, many do not survive. Dr Michael Edgar Muhumuza, a consultant neurosurgeon at Mulago, says the trend of motorcycle accident victims has shifted from passengers to the riders who are always assaulted by ‘passengers.’
“It seems the assailants know exactly where to hit. The bones on the skull are usually shattered and the risk of survival is minimal. I think if these riders had helmets, the damage would be on the helmets. I do support the regulation,” Dr Muhumuza says. He added: “We are trying to train more people. We are in a dilemma. You have a patient that you have been taking care of for weeks and then in a day they bring you others. You find it hard to cater for a new patient and leave the other to die.”
Dr Jolly Beyeza, a senior gyneacologist and surgeon at the hospital, says of recent, operations on broken bones have overtaken chest surgeries, adding that they are now only next to caesarean operations.
“Many of these have head injuries and need surgery but we are burdened by the workload. All we need to do is to emphasise that people should wear helmets. People may not understand this but they end up dying,” Dr Beyeza said.
Many victims are in the city centre.
Appearing before Parliament last week, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) presented a proposal to regulate the most used mode of transport in the city. The proposal, expected to be implemented by August, states that all motorcycles will need to be registered, given code numbers according to divisions of operation and have two helmets for the passengers and the riders.
Few boda-bodas will be allowed to operate in the central business district to reduce congestion.
Currently, there is no clear number of boda bodas but a recent informal registration by the city authority puts the numbers to at least 150,000.
Dr Beyeza, commenting on the move said: “If KCCA is coming up with the regulations, it is encouraging because some accidents are caused by the congestion on our roads.”
While Dr Muhumuza said: “To the passengers, the helmets minimise the harm caused to the head when they are hit on the ground. He added: “I don’t know why we should not have a policy that from the motorcycle sell points, the buyers should be given two helmets.” Helmets cost Shs20,000 while motorcycles cost at least Shs3.3 million.