At least 5,000 people die in major lakes and rivers across the country every year, the State minister for Tourism has revealed.
Mr Godfrey Kiwanda quoting data from Lake Victoria Basin Commission, said this number could be higher given that most cases of drowning happen in remote dams and swamps and often go unnoticed and are not documented.
“We have an urgent issue to address; we cannot continue to sit back as thousands drown. Some cases are never documented so the number is bigger than this,” he said.
Mr Kiwanda was speaking at the launch of water safety campaign organised by Swim Safe Uganda at Kaazi near Busabala on the shores of Lake Victoria in Wakiso District on Friday.
From the minister’s statement, this means nearly 14 people drown across the country daily.
The most recent incident of drowning was on Lake Victoria in November last year, where more than 30 people drowned while on a boat fun ride to Mutima Beach, off Mukono Town.
Buganda Prince Arnold Ssimbwa, one of the survivors of the November fatal boat accident, said a number of people on the boat died because they lacked basic water survival skills and the first aid offered was poor.
Minister Kiwanda said there is need for every Ugandan to learn how to swim to avoid instances of dying because they cannot swim.
“‘Balance the boat’ is a sad phrase in our recent memory. Very few children and students are receiving water safety lessons. Ugandans must learn how to survive on water,” Mr Kiwanda said.
In 2015, another 13 people drowned at several beaches on Lake Victoria in Entebbe during the New Year festivities.
Mr Moses Kalanzi, the executive director of Swim Safe Uganda, said most of the cases of drowning on Lake Victoria are caused by “negligence and overloading of boats.”
In a bid to enable Ugandans to reduce drowning incidences, Swim Safe Uganda, in partnership with the Uganda Police Force is set to teach swimming skills to professional groups and in primary and secondary schools in and around Kampala.
The programme will gradually be rolled out to cover areas outside Kampala.
Mr Moses Kalanzi, the executive director of Swim Safe Uganda says in case of any danger while on water keep calm, screening makes one swallow a lot of water.Check the capacity of the life jacket; if the weight is not indicated, do not put it on. Make sure the capacity of the jacket matches your weight.