According to a survey titled ‘Understanding and preventing drowning in Uganda conducted in 14 districts between January 2016 and June 2018 by Makerere University School of Public Health in Partnership with the Centre for Disease Control foundation, a total of 1,332 people have died by drowning in the last two years.
Daily Monitor of August 8 in a story ‘Drowning claims 1,300 lives in two years - survey,’ reports that boating was the most common activity associated with drowning, followed by collecting water or watering cattle and that nearly half of those who drowned were engaged in an occupational activity at the time of the incident.
This calls for an urgent need to revisit and implement safety regulations, especially in lakeside and riverside districts such as Mayuge, which according to the survey, recorded the highest number of deaths due to drowning.
As an intervention to prevent drowning, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its 2017 implementation guide, recommends installation of barriers controlling access to water, setting and enforcing safe boating and ferry regulations, teaching children swimming and water safety skills, managing flooding risks and other hazards.
The guide also mentions engagement of the communities around water bodies to create public awareness of drowning.
Simple regulations such as monitoring and inspecting boats and other water transport vessels and making sure the passengers in these boats wear life jackets correctly, can go a long way in preventing drowning, which is a highly neglected problem.
However, demanding that passengers and operators wear life jackets will not yield much unless the said jackets are availed to them. So distribution of life jackets and ensuring that they are used appropriately, is also necessary.
And that is not all. Many boats on these water bodies are usually dilapidated and, unfortunately, there is little or even no inspection or monitoring of these vessels despite various laws of water vessel safety and inspection. Therefore, strengthening inspection and enforcing laws governing water transport is key.
And because it is next to impossible to monitor and police these communities continually, it is best to heighten sensitisation by creating awareness of the gravity of the problem. When the most at risk communities realise how many people die as a result of drowning, perhaps they will be persuaded to embrace long-lasting behavioural change. This is especially true for communities whose livelihoods are centred around water bodies.
It is only when these and other measures are applied that the number of the deaths due to drowning will decline.