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Mak Donates 90 Lifebuoys to Uganda Police Marine Unit



The Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) has donated 90 lifebuoys to the Uganda Police Force (UPF) Marine Unit, to aid the specialised unit in rescuing the drowning victims.

Assistant Inspector General of Police Edward Ochom, the UPF Director in charge of Operations hailed MakSPH for the strong partnership it has forged over time with UPF Marine Unit that bore fruits.

According to Ochom, UPF has for long been financially constrained making it difficult for the officers operate without adequate equipment. He hailed the partnership that has seen research output and now, a big boost of equipment.

He hailed the School for supporting the Marine Unit with 90 lifebuoys citing that they “will go a long way to support life when one drowns.” He was officiating at the handover ceremony of the items on Thursday October 8, 2020 at the Marine Base in Kigo, Wakiso District where he represented Inspector General of Police.

“I am privileged to be informed that this concern has not started now but the School used to offer life jackets to landing sites. Hence the love to preserve human life is well grounded in the School’s ideological mandate,” he said.

AIGP Ongom added that; “…we are really privileged that that we are being given 90 life rings. Our cardinal mandate in the Constitution is to protect life and property. And therefore, we are really concerned especially when people lose their lives on road, in water etc. We are really concerned and it is our duty to ensure that people don’t lose their lives like that.”

A recent study by the School showed that safe boating regulations are flouted, yet police was ill-equipped to ensure safety on the lake even as most drownings are preventable through policies and regulations that reduce risk exposure.

Mr. Abdullah Ali Halage, a lecturer at MakSPH said the intervention arose out of research conducted across the country around drowning, that stressed the limited resources and equipment by the law enforcers. He represented the Dean MakSPH-Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze at the donation of lifebuoys that were supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Globally, over 90% of the estimated 322,000 people who die in accidents related to drowning are in Low and Middle-Income Countries, making it the third leading cause of unintentional injury death; accounting for 7% of all injuries.

“We have conducted research and actually shared with you some of the reports that show that actually 95% of people using boats do not wear life jackets. Our reports also show that out of those who need to be rescued, very few get that support,” Mr. Halage said.

Officers from the UPF Marine Unit demonstrate use of the new Lifebuoys

The results also show that many people drown without benefiting from any rescue attempts, because those who witness the drowning lack either rescue skills or rescue equipment.

According to Frederick Oporia, a Project Coordinator and Injury Epidemiologist at the Injury Epidemiology (Trauma, Injuries and Disability (TRIAD) unit of the School, majority people who drown lack survival swimming skills.” The TRIAD project is housed under the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health.

The results also show drowning as a major cause of premature death in Uganda especially among young adults whose livelihoods depend on water activities. But Halage says most incidents of drowning are preventable through policies and regulations that reduce exposure to drowning risk and institutional interventions to ensure safety around water.

According to AIGP Ochom, the equipment used in such rescue missions is very expensive and that they can hardly be availed during the budgets. He observes that as police, they are mandated to protect lives irrespective of whether they have the means or not.

“We are really happy when we get institutions that also get their budgets from government and donate part of their meagre budgets that they get to another institution because I think they have seen during the research that we really need to be assisted. They are not doing it for themselves, they are doing it for the good of the nation. The Inspector General of Police is therefore highly indebted to Makerere University School of Public Health for the support they continue to give this specialised unit,” he noted.

The Marine Specialised Unit of Uganda Police Force is responsible for ensuring enforcement of law and order on water, Monitoring and Handling search and rescue.

The unit has 26 establishments/ detachments spread across the four major lakes in Uganda. A total of 17 marine establishments are on Lake Victoria, four (4) on Lake Kyoga, four (4) on Lake Albert, one (1) establishment on Lake George.

Engineer James Apora, the Uganda Police Marine Unit commandant also hailed the School for the big boost and the partnership citing that the equipment will ease their work.

“Our establishments are very few and very far apart. When you talk about emergency response, your response time becomes an issue when you are very far apart. The equipment you are using becomes an issue to take you there fast. The manpower also becomes an issue because you need very many numbers to expand,” says Eng. Apora.

“But the beauty is we have the will from police management to expand the unit. We have submitted our policing strategic plan for the next five years to establish additional 24 detaches that would make us to have at least 50 detaches spread all over the lakes. And we are also now venturing into the in-land lakes. Of recent lake Bunyonyi has become an issue and that is one of the areas we intend to open our detaches,” he hastened to add.

According to Eng. Apora, lifebuoys save about 4 persons at ago. “You can hang about four persons on it who can then be pulled to a safer area. I feel this is the greatest thing a stakeholder can do. The rest we can always talk but when you do it in practice, I think it speaks more.”

Dr. Olive Kobusingye, a Research Fellow and the Principal Investigator says despite the lack of incapacity to ensure safety on the lake, Police Officers have done tremendously well in ensuring they save lives and restore hope to Ugandans.

Dr. Olive Kobusingye, MakSPH Research Fellow and Project Principal Investigator

“We took about a year talking to a lot of people like yourselves [marine officers], we went to all Marine Police detaches and many other places and talked to people that have retrieved bodies, that have saved people from drowning, that have worked with families of those that have drowned and they all tell these stories but their stories go unacknowledged and a lot of work goes unacknowledged and I really would like to say thank you so very much indeed,” Dr. Kobusingye said at the handover ceremony. 

About the Study

The report, issued on Thursday, presents findings of a two-phased study that was conducted in 60 districts of Uganda for a period of 2.5 years from a period of January 2016 to June 2018.

In the first phase of the study, records concerning 1,435 drowning cases were found in the 60 districts. Other than stating that the individual had drowned, there was very little information that could potentially guide prevention efforts.

The second phase was limited to only 14 of the 60 districts. In these 14 districts, a total of 2,066 drowning cases were identified by community health workers and confirmed through individual interviews with witnesses, family members, friends and survivors of drowning.

The report on understanding and preventing drowning in Uganda released on Thursday revealed high rates of drowning in both lakeside and non-lakeside districts.

Statistics analysed from the National Population and Housing Census Main Report of 2014, show that a total of 872 drowning deaths and 533 drowning survivors were recorded from the lakeside districts of Mayuge, Rakai, Serere, Hoima, Nakasongola, Masaka, Soroti and Rubirizi.

UBOS data also shows that a total of 402 drowning deaths and 146 drowning survivors were recorded in the reporting period for non-lakeside districts of Mbarara, Arua, Kitgum, Kabale and Mubende. In Kampala alone, the reporting period had a total of 58 drowning deaths recorded and 55 drowning survivors.

During the two-and-a-half-year study period, 1,435 drowning cases were recorded in the district police offices, marine police detachments, fire/rescue brigade detachments, and the largest mortuary in the 60 study districts.

“This is not the number of drowning cases that occurred during that time, but rather the number of drowning cases that were recorded. We learned from this study that many more cases of drowning happen that are never reported or recorded in administrative sources,” says Dr. Kobusingye.

According to the report, majority of the recorded cases were deaths (about 90%).

AIGP Ongom said the research will inform the Uganda Police Force’s top management on the causes of death on water, mitigating factors and strategies that can be put in place to minimise them.

He urged the marine unit to vigorously engage in strategies that can prevent people from drowning.

“For some of those cases that I have known, and also having a background of marine of course, we used to retrieve bodies and conduct investigations. There situations where you would really find it difficult even for the people to save themselves. I would sincerely request that we don’t end at research. We need to do a lot of preventive policing on our water bodies,” AIGP Ongom said.

Cover page of the MakSPH Report on Understanding and Preventing Drowning in Uganda 2020

Article by Makerere University School of Public Health


ENABLING Project Social Scientist Positions: (1) Team Lead (3) Research Associates



An elevated shot of the School of Biomedical Sciences Building, College of Health Sciences (CHS), Makerere University. Kampala Uganda, East Africa

Makerere University College of Health Sciences-MAKCHS- Centre of Excellence in Women’s Health in collaboration with Makerere University-Johns Hopkins University (MU-JHU) Care Limited received funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Enabling Platforms for Maternal Immunization: Uganda (ENABLING Project). The Project aims to identify, characterize, and support the delivery platform, policy, and preparedness requirements for introducing new maternal vaccines. The Project seeks to recruit suitable candidates for the following positions;

Social Scientist, Team Lead (01)

Social Scientist Research Associate (03)

Duty Station: Kampala

Engagement: Full Time 

All applications must be submitted to the email: before Monday, 29th July 2024 at 23:59hrs EAT

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Call for Abstracts: Makerere Bioethics Conference 2024



Call For Abstracts: Makerere Bioethics Conference (MakBC 2024), 11th - 12th November 2024. Deadline: 15th August 2024. Hotel Africana, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The Centre for Bioethics under Makerere University Biomedical Research Centre (MakBRC) is delighted to announce the MAKERERE BIOETHICS CONFERENCE (MakBC 2024), scheduled to take place on 11th and 12th November 2024 at Hotel Africana, Kampala, Uganda. This year’s theme is ‘Contemporary Issues in Bioethics Practice,‘ and we invite researchers, practitioners, and students to submit their abstracts for presentation.

Thematic Areas:

  • Emerging Technologies in Health
    • Genetics and Genomics
    • Assisted Reproductive Health
    • Drug and Vaccination Development
    • Nanotechnology
    • Robotic Surgery
  • Data Science
    • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
    • Biotechnology
    • Big Data
    • Digital Health
  • Research Ethics
    • Research Ethics
    • Research Integrity
  • Clinical Ethics
  • Public Health Ethics

Important Dates:

Abstract Submission Deadline: 15th August 2024

Registration Deadline: 16th September 2024

Submission and Registration:

Abstract Submission: Click here to Submit your Abstract

Online Registration: Click here to Register for the Conference

For more information contact Conference Secretariat:

Department of Anatomy, 
Last Floor, School of Biomedical Sciences
Makerere University College of Health Sciences, 
P.O Box 7072 Kampala, Uganda. 
Tel: +256 782 363 996 or +256 772 246 681

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Mak Researchers Partner with Safe Bangle Technologies to Roll out a Real-Time Domestic Violence Reporting Bracelet



A Woman putting on the Real-Time Domestic Violence Reporting Bracelet. Makerere University School of Public Health/Resilient Africa Network (MakSPH/RAN), Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Somero Uganda, Safe Bangle Technologies roll out of a real-time domestic violence reporting bracelet. Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

By Joseph Odoi

A Consortium of Researchers from Makerere University School of Public Health/Resilient Africa Network (MakSPH/RAN), Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Somero Uganda together with Safe Bangle Technologies have rolled out a real time domestic violence reporting bracelet.

    This roll out was made possible with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER) program and the National Academies of Sciences.

    Dr. Juliet Kiguli, the Principal Investigator from Makerere University, along with Dr. Roy Mayega, Deputy Chief of Party at RAN, and Dr. Agnes Nyabigambo, the study coordinator, initiated the PEER program to identify entry points for testing SafeBangle Technologies (a social enterprise based at Resilient Africa Network (RAN) with a mission to create a safer and more secure environment for women and children through innovative, affordable, and creative technology solutions to curb GBV in Africa.) wearable safety bracelet in the informal settlements. This decision stemmed from findings of increased intimate partner violence (IPV) and gender-based violence (GBV) in three informal settlements in Kampala, Uganda, following a longitudinal study, geospatial mapping, and interviews. The project, titled ‘The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Gender-Based Violence among Women and Girls in Informal Settlements in Kampala,’ highlighted the urgent need for affordable and immediate reporting mechanisms for violence.”

    ‘’While carrying out a study after the Covid-19 Pandemic, we identified gaps when it comes to reporting and response to Gender Based Violence (GBV) among women in informal settlements. Therefore, we used incorporated the SafeBangle intervention to solve the problem of lack of affordable and immediate reporting mechanisms for violence using a bracelet that reports violence in real time’’ explained Dr. Kiguli.

    Innovation details

    According to Saul Kabali and Messach Luminsa, the innovators behind SafeBangle from SafeBangle Technologies, hosted at the Resilient African Network Lab. ‘’The inspiration behind SafeBangle came from a deeply personal place. ‘’We heard countless stories of women who couldn’t call for help during moments of danger. We were deeply affected by the story of Aisha, a young woman in a rural village who was attacked while walking home alone at night. With no way to call for help, she felt helpless and vulnerable. This incident made us realize the critical need for immediate reporting alert tools, accessible to women like Aisha. We knew technology could play a crucial role and this incident awakened a strong desire in us to create a solution’’

    Saul Kabali, Executive Director and Chief Operations Lead at SafeBangle Technologies explaining how the bracelet works at 2023 Imara Girls Festival exhibition. Makerere University School of Public Health/Resilient Africa Network (MakSPH/RAN), Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Somero Uganda, Safe Bangle Technologies roll out of a real-time domestic violence reporting bracelet. Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
    Saul Kabali, Executive Director and Chief Operations Lead at SafeBangle Technologies explaining how the bracelet works at 2023 Imara Girls Festival exhibition.

    “While developing SafeBangle, we tested with the users in both rural and urban contexts. We piloted the innovation around Kampala with support from Digital Human Righs Lab and Naguru Youth Health Network as well as it in five districts of Karamoja region with support from Save the Children and Response Innovation Lab. Right now it has become handy in Kamapala‘s informal settlements. We envision a future where SafeBangle becomes a standard tool in the fight against GBV, ensuring every woman feels safe and secure as it has the potential to transform how we respond to GBV in Africa” added Kabali.


    The SafeBangle is wearable technology similar to a smartwatch that sends an alarm by SMS to people chosen by a woman herself if she feels threatened.

    How the SafeBangle Real-time Domestic Violence Reporting Bracelet works.  Makerere University School of Public Health/Resilient Africa Network (MakSPH/RAN), Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Somero Uganda, Safe Bangle Technologies roll out of a real-time domestic violence reporting bracelet. Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
    How the SafeBangle Real-time Domestic Violence Reporting Bracelet works.

    In terms of the acceptability of the SafeBangle innovation as a solution to GBV among at-risk women in informal settlements Of the 72 adolescent girls and women who received the SafeBangle, 22 activated the reporting button, resulting in 19 receiving immediate and appropriate support, including counseling, police intervention, and health services.

    All adolescent girls and women who experienced GBV received a phone call from Somero Uganda to discuss the most appropriate intervention, including counseling, police cases being handled by the probation office, referral for health services, and post-exposure prophylaxis. All the GBV survivors received support and are still receiving continuous follow-up.

    Researchers conducted a survey among 644 girls and women in Kinawataka (Nakawa Division) and Bwaise (Kawempe Division) to gain insights into awareness and understanding of sexual and gender-based violence among adolescent girls and women in informal settlements. The survey measured socioeconomic factors, mental health symptoms, and exposure to GBV. Focus group interviews were conducted with a separate sample of women over 18 in the settlements to explore responses to GBV.

    Preliminary impact of SafeBangle on tracked survivors.  Makerere University School of Public Health/Resilient Africa Network (MakSPH/RAN), Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Somero Uganda, Safe Bangle Technologies roll out of a real-time domestic violence reporting bracelet. Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
    Preliminary impact of SafeBangle on tracked survivors.

    A tabular representation of the key findings and lessons learned from your study on gender-based violence (GBV)

    Key FindingsLessons learned
    Prevalence of GBV.
    – Overall prevalence: 34.1% of women and girls reported experiencing GBV.
    – Among adolescents (15-19 years): Over 50% reported experiencing GBV.
    – The pandemic highlighted the need for accessible and comprehensive support services for GBV survivors.
    – Schools emerged as crucial safe spaces for girls, emphasizing their well-being during crises.
    – Economic independence proved crucial, enabling women to leave abusive environments.
    – Involving men and boys as allies in GBV prevention efforts is essential.
    Age-related trends– GBV prevalence tends to decrease with increasing age.
    Physical and health consequences.– Women and girls suffered physical violence, injuries, and deaths, primarily from domestic violence and unsafe abortions due to limited healthcare access.
    – GBV resulted in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) like HIV/AIDS.
    Social and economic impact. .– GBV contributed to family breakups, strained marriages due to financial stress.
    – Economic hardships forced some women and girls into transactional sex, exposing them to further health risks and exploitation.
    – Pandemic-related job losses and economic constraints increased financial dependence on abusers, trapping women in violent situations.
    – School closures and increased household responsibilities limited women’s job opportunities and subjected them to sexual harassment.
    Psychological effects– Survivors experienced guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, and suicidal thoughts due to ongoing abuse.
    Long-term effects– Post-COVID-19, survivors faced disrupted education, early marriages, pregnancies, social stigma, and persistent mental health issues.
    A tabular representation of the key findings and lessons learned from your study on gender-based violence (GBV)

    Reproductive Health Consequences: GBV resulted in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) like HIV/AIDS.

    Family Breakdown: The rise in GBV led to family breakups as women fled abusive relationships. Marriages were strained due to increased financial stress.

    Transactional Sex for Survival: Desperate for basic needs due to job losses and economic hardship, some women and girls resorted to transactional sex, exposing them to further health risks and exploitation.

    One study participant stated, “The time of COVID-19 was so terrible for some of us. We in fact got a lot of diseases from it because you would want to get food and didn’t have money. That way you would be forced to get a man who would use you and pay.” – (FGD_Girls_19–24years_Kinawataka).

    Economic Effects: COVID-19 restrictions caused job losses and limited economic opportunities, particularly for women in the informal sector. This increased financial dependence on abusers and trapped women in violent situations.

    Limited Access to Employment: School closures and increased household chores limited women’s ability to seek employment, perpetuating gender inequality in the workforce. Some faced sexual harassment from potential employers.

    Psychological Effects: Survivors of GBV experienced guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, and even suicidal thoughts due to the constant threat and unpredictability of abuse.

    Post-COVID Effects: GBV survivors faced long-term consequences, including disrupted education, early marriage, early pregnancy, social stigma, and persistent mental health issues.

    Lessons learned

    The pandemic highlighted the need for accessible and comprehensive support services for survivors of GBV, the significance of schools as safe spaces for girls, and the need to prioritize their well-being during crises. Economic empowerment emerged as a significant protective factor for women and girls. Those with greater economic independence were better equipped to leave abusive environments and secure their safety and well-being, while dependent ones suffered abuses. Engaging men and boys as allies in the fight against GBV and involving them in prevention efforts can help promote positive behavior change and foster more equitable relationships.


    To address GBV against women and girls, the researchers recommend the following moving forward;

    1. There is need to integrate technology-driven solutions like SafeBangle into national GBV prevention and response strategies. SafeBangle can be a valuable tool for policymakers as cases of violence that would have gone unreported will be brought to light and the would-be victims will be able to get immediate help from trusted relatives and friends.
    2. Provide economic opportunities and vocational training for women and girls to enhance their financial independence and reduce vulnerability to violence. There is therefore a need to introduce education and training programs that empower women and girls, by providing them with skills, resources, and opportunities to start their own ventures and to participate fully in community affairs.
    3. Strengthen and enforce existing laws and policies related to GBV, including laws against domestic violence, child marriage, and sexual assault without discrimination be it for law enforcers, leaders, and employers where such cases were suffocated. Ensure that perpetrators are held accountable through swift and fair legal processes that have no room for corruption.
    4. Establish and promote effective, accessible, and confidential reporting mechanisms for GBV incidents that provide confidence and can be trusted by survivors to enhance reporting of such incidences of GBV. Community Engagement and Involvement: Involve community leaders, religious leaders, and elders in discussions about GBV to promote gender equality, change social norms, and reinforce the message that violence against women and girls is unacceptable.
    5. Launch extensive public awareness campaigns to challenge harmful gender norms, report cases of GBV, raise awareness about the consequences of GBV, and promote positive behaviors and attitudes towards women and girls.
    6. Implement comprehensive sexuality education in schools and communities, educating young people about healthy relationships, consent, and reproductive rights to be able to make informed decisions about their own lives and well-being.
    7. Engage men and boys as allies in the fight against GBV, encouraging them to challenge harmful masculinity norms and behaviors. This will help minimize GBV because mostly they are the perpetrators. Strengthening Support for Survivors: Provide ongoing support and follow-up services for survivors of GBV mostly counselling services to aid their recovery and facilitate their reintegration into society.
    8. Provide ongoing support and follow-up services for survivors of GBV, mostly counseling services to aid their recovery and facilitate their reintegration into society.
    9. Provide avenues to seek free or subsidized services by survivors of GBV medical services and legal processes by survivors of GBV to enhance reporting of GBV cases, access to medical care, counseling, legal support, and other essential services.
    10. Encourage and support more research and innovations like SafeBangle to curb incidents of GBV.
    11. A comprehensive and inclusive approach is required. The efforts should involve government institutions, civil society organizations, community leaders, and individuals working together to address the root causes and provide support to survivors.
    12. Involve media in GBV prevention activities and for enhancing campaigns against GBV mostly on radio and TV.


    The core project team, included researchers at Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) led by Prof.  Julia Dickson-Gomez, SafeBangle Technologies, and Somero Uganda, a community-focused NGO, began the project by designing their research protocol and taking a CITI Program course on human subjects social/behavioral research. Team members also met with the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development (MGLSG) in support of the gender-based violence policy process, Ministry of Health and local government. They also established relationships with the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and Nakawa and Kawempe probation offices to support legal processes for the GBV survivors. SafeBangle Team also received an award from Defenders Protection Initiative.

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