On Saturday, November 9, Mr Frank Magezi and his wife received the sad and shocking news that their son, Deo Kezaala, a Senior Four candidate at Kisubi Mapeera Secondary, had drowned in Lake Victoria.
Kezaala and a friend, had reportedly gone out to have some fun and relax when he unfortunately drowned at about 8pm. Earlier this year, in July, another Senior Four student, Joshua Muwanguzi, drowned in River Nile near the Bujagali Falls, during a field tour he had taken with his friends. Muwanguzi, it is said, sneaked off at some point to go and swim and he unfortunately drowned.
Muwanguzi and Kezaala are some of many Ugandans whose deaths might have been avoided if more was done to ensure Ugandans are kept safe while in the waters or strictly prohibited from swimming or navigating certain water bodies.
A report in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, titled ‘Drowning among the lakeside fishing communities in Uganda: Results of a community survey’ showed that “majority of drowning events occurred during transportation (51.7 per cent) or fishing (39.0 per cent). The most frequently mentioned factors were stormy weather and overloading.” The report also stated that drowning is a common threat to young adults in the fishing communities around Lake Victoria, and unfortunately, few preventive interventions are in place.
Another worrying report, done by Makerere University School of Public Health in partnership with the Centre for Disease Control, indicated that many deaths by drowning are not reported at the district level. The report titled ‘Understanding and Preventing Drowning in Uganda’, indicated that many deaths are not officially reported. It also showed that many cases are of those drowning not necessarily in big lakes or rivers, but in small streams, ponds and valley dams, with many of the victims engaging in some activity like watering cattle.
In order for people not to risk their lives, preventive and protective measures should be put in place to encourage them to get onto the water bodies in a safe manner. The same effort that the government is exerting on people who carry out illegal fishing is the same energy they should take to ensure fishermen and travellers on the lake use boats that are in good working condition, do not overload, and have safety wear.
Areas that are not safe, for example, those that look deceptively shallow and yet are deep, which are muddy or have elements of sinking sand, or those where people have been known to lose their lives, should have warning signs stopping people from swimming in or around them.
We should be able to prevent these kinds of deaths.
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