Drowning is a leading cause of death among youth around the world, with over 90% of drowning occurring in low- and middle-income countries. In Uganda, over 5,000 people drown in major lakes and rivers every year. These are avoidable tragedies. Uganda is has a total area of 241,551 square kilometers with a land area of 200,523 and of those 41,028 square kilometers are covered by water and its no wonder Uganda has one of the highest rates of drowning in the world.
A 2016 study of drownings involving 544 participants from four Ugandan lakeside districts found that survey participants who had been in a boat that nearly capsized (57.8%), or that actually capsized (21.7%), were no more likely to wear life jackets than those who had not had these experiences. Three quarters (73.2%) did not know how to call for rescue, and only 48.7% could swim.
The districts sampled had a drowning fatality rate of 502 deaths per 100,000 population. Majority of drowning events occurred during transportation (51.7%) or fishing (39.0%), and the most frequently mentioned factors were stormy weather and overloading.
According to the Causes of Death section on the Our World in Data website, a total of 2,007 individuals drowned in Uganda in 2016. The data also shows that from 2000 to 2016, 1829 people drowned on average each year with the fewest drownings being 1,565 in 2000 and the most being 2,078 in 2013. The country health profile for Uganda published by the World Health Rankings, drownings claimed a total of 3,186 lives in 2017, representing 1.23 percent of the total deaths that year indicating a growing neglected killer.
- What is our solution?
Youth Rising is partnering with Ray United FC to train 50 children 12-15 years, equipping them with both first aid and swim survival skills.
- How are we going to implement the solution?
We shall hold a four-day water safety and drown prevention training where we will organize stations to uncover water survival skills, drowning, action plans to drowning and first aid.
Ray United FC has also created a workbook for the four days that will help participants catch up on the days and the sessions as they go.
If water-survival skills are indeed regarded as so important and swimming lessons will not only teach the youth to swim laps with correct technique, but also equip them with the necessary skills to assist their survival in water should they encounter. We will incorporate an education about fundamental water safety rules including always swimming with an adult, swimming between the flags at the beach, and the inherent potential dangers (such as entries and exits, depths, temperature, obstacles, rips, waves, currents and tides) in a range of aquatic environments besides swimming pools including beaches, lakes and rivers.
These commonsense matters are taught as a means to help prevent the swimmer exposing themselves to danger in a variety of aquatic environments and a variety of conditions, rather than as a means for having the swimmer resolve such danger.
The majority of drowning fatalities occur when the victim is clothed and find themselves in need of help (i.e. while boating, fishing on rocks, or simply playing around the water’s edge in everyday clothing). Wet clothing has an unexpected greater weight than regular swimwear, and this may cause panic.
In swim safer lessons we will have the children swim in clothing too familiarise and educate the children what is feels like to wear clothes in water. It is important for swimmers to be given the opportunity to wear everyday clothing into the water so they can understand how heavy their clothes are in water, how it sinks them lower in the water and makes swimming to safety difficult, and how difficult it is to remove clothing in water.
Although we cannot expect a child to think strategically or use problem-solving techniques to deal with complex scenarios related to the water, we will offer them (age-dependent) rescue principles and mechanisms that will assist them to cope with emergencies with themselves and/or others regardless of their age or ability or the unfamiliarity of the environment.
Action Plans to prevent drowning
The action plans we will teach include the importance of remaining calm, calling for help or emergency assistance, and using items in the available environment to assist rescues (from normal floatation aids to tree branches, esky lids, buckets, clothing etc) Being able to stay afloat, reach safety and negotiate obstacles while in the water form a vital component of “swimming safer”.
Back floating, treading water, sidestroke and breaststroke are survival mechanisms designed to assist the swimmer to relax, conserve energy and/or move through the water efficiently in unfamiliar aquatic situations, and there is just as much need for these to be taught as there is a need to teach competitive strokes.
Swim safer and survival skill education lessons provide an opportunity for a swim teacher to discuss potential scenarios and situations with their pupils, and to teach the techniques to be used should an emergency be encountered.