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Makerere Marks World Drowning Prevention Day



By Joseph Odoi

On 27th July, 2021, Makerere University joined the rest of the world to mark the 1st International Drowning Prevention Day.  This follows a historic resolution by UN Assembly to declare 25th July the World Drowning Prevention Day.

This day was set aside to raise awareness about the devastating effects of drowning on families and communities globally.

According to WHO Data, an estimated 236,000 people drown every year, and drowning is among the ten leading causes of death for children aged 5-14 years. More than 90% of drowning deaths occur in Low- and-Middle-Income-Countries (LMICs), with Africa being among the most affected region.

While moderating Uganda’s webinar to mark this day under the Ugandan theme ‘Drowning: recognizing the silent burden and a call to action’, Dr. Olive Kobusingye, a Senior Research Fellow and Head of the TRauma, Injury And Disability (TRIAD) unit at Makerere University School of Public Health in a special way welcomed over 100 participants to the zoom session. She remarked that drowning is a big problem which affects many different types of people adding that it is preventable with good planning and investments at national and community levels.

‘’Nationally, we need to plan systems for gathering data, we need a work plan, resources, agencies and people mandated to prevent drowning. At the community level we need sensitization about the risk of drowning, we need people to report drownings when they happen, and we need them to participate in prevention efforts for the community (e.g. sensitization campaigns) and individuals (e.g. always wearing a life jacket when on water and heeding weather forecasts and warnings on dangerous waves on lakes)’’ Dr. Kobusingye  explained.

Dr. Olive Kobusingye, Senior Research Fellow and Head of the TRauma, Injury And Disability (TRIAD) Unit, Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH)

Citing multi-sectoral approach, Dr. Kobusingye stressed the importance of different sectors working together to prevent drowning.

‘’Multiple sectors need to work together to bring about effective drowning prevention, but so far every sector is on their own. Some of the key sectors are not engaged at all. The lack of consensus around a common strategy and plan means that little action is taken’’  she added.

Moving forward, Dr. Kobusingye advised government to prioritize the fishing industry by providing leadership, coordination capacity and working with the private sectors to prevent drowning.

Presenting findings of a two-phased countrywide survey on drowning at the webinar, Frederick Oporia, a Research Associate and PhD Fellow at Makerere University School of Public Health revealed that drowning is among the silent leading causes of injury-related deaths in the country, and the most affected are fishing communities.

Highlights of the findings

Frederick noted that in the first phase, a total of 1,435 fatal and non-fatal drowning cases were recorded in administrative sources of 60 districts; 1009 (70%) in lakeside districts and 426 (30%) in non-lakeside districts.

Frederick Oporia, Research Associate and PhD Fellow, MakSPH

’’In the seond phase, further exploration in just 14 districts out of the 60 was done. This phase involved community interviews. Through these interviews, a total of 2,066 new drownings were found, a number far higher than what was found recorded in administrative offices of 60 districts’’. he cited

Regarding demographics, he said fatal victims were predominantly male (85%), and mostly among the young adults with the average age of 24 years. Almost half (48%) of these drownings were related to an occupational activity. The study found that there was gross under-reporting of drowning incidents, partly because of the belief of most communities that drowning is ‘a will of God’ and so there’s no need to report what God has decided.

The majority (95%) of the people who drowned from a boating-related activity were not wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident.

To address these cases, Frederick revealed that MakSPH together with different stakeholders have developed the first ever National Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Strategy for Uganda. The strategy is hoped to guide all the efforts on drowning prevention in the country. As part of this strategy, he emphasized the importance of installing barriers to control access to high risk water sources, teaching children survival swimming skills, sensitization in communities to enhance behavioral change, safe boating and shipping regulations, training of first responders in safe search, rescue and resuscitation, building resilience and managing flood risks among others

In efforts to prevent drowning, Henry Ategeka, Principal Marines Inspector at the Ministry of Works and Transport revealed that the ministry has been donating some life jackets to police marines and some communities in dire need. He also said that there are plans by the government to strengthen laws around navigation to promote safety on Uganda’s water bodies.

As part of these plans, CP Ubaldo Bamunoba, the Commandant Marine Police said the country is in the process of  unveiling a water safety strategy to curb drowning.

Mr. Ubaldo further revealed that his department is establishing several rescue centers at all major water bodies to support the rapid rescue operations. He also pointed out capacity building and marine training as one of the key mechanisms needed towards drowning prevention.

Mr. Sowed Suwagudde, Assistant Commissioner International Transboundary Water Resources, Ministry of Water and Environment

Mr. Sowed Suwagudde, Assistant Commissioner International Transboundary Water Resources at the Ministry of Water and Environment also  stressed the need for partners to work together. “Water cuts across a number of sectors and if we are going to have success for our strategy, we will need to bring them all on board because they interact with the water environment.”

In his remarks, the WHO Uganda Country Office Representative, Dr. Fatunmbi Bayo Segun congratulated Uganda for marking the first ever World Drowning Prevention Day, adding that 2.5million drowning deaths in the last decade should remind everyone about the seriousness of the neglected injury. Moving forward, he emphasized the need for a multi-sectoral approach in reducing the burden of drowning. 

In her closing remarks, the Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees–Hon. Esther Anyakun acknowledged drowning as one of the leading causes of death, not just in Uganda but worldwide. She highlighted drowning as a silent burden with huge economic implications on the country thus calling for a multi-sectoral approach to counter it. She equally thanked Makerere University for taking lead in co-designing Uganda’s first drowning prevention strategy.

The webinar organised by Ministry of Water and Environment in Partnership with Makerere University attracted  over 100 participants including policy makers, technical experts, researchers, civil society organizations, and researchers. Among issues discussed in a Q&A Session were causes of drowning, perceptions, laws, data, and policies around drowning. At this webinar, it was agreed by all participants that tackling drowning, a neglected injury needs a multi-sectoral approach where different sectors work together.


METS Newsletter March 2024



A team documenting the background and other governance structure requirements in the EMR Implementation Guidelines during the stakeholder workshop held from 26th February to 1st March 2024. Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), METS Program, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support (METS) Program is a 5-year CDC-supported collaboration of Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Health Information Systems Program (HISP Uganda).

Highlights of the METS March 2024 Newsletter

  • Development of National Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Implementation Guidelines
    • To date, multiple Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems have been rolled out to health facilities without implementation guidelines to inform the standard EMR process/clinical workflows within a typical health facility, minimum requirements for various EMRs to integrate and exchange patient information, insurance and billing workflows, human resources management, among others.
    • METS Program and USAID/SITES organized a five-day stakeholder workshop on 26th February to 1st March 2024, to develop and validate the EMR Implementation Guidelines for Uganda.
  • Improving the Quality of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision
    • In February 2024, the METS Program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Implementing Partners (IMs), conducted targeted onsite mentorship across 56 safe male circumcision sites in CDC-supported regions of Uganda.
    • Key findings highlighted the overall facility performance score of 78%, with 5 out of 8 thematic areas scoring above 80%. Notably, 99% of circumcised males had received Tetanus vaccines.
  • Innovation To Strengthen National Health Care Quality Improvement
    • The 10th National Health Care Quality Improvement (QI) conference brought together health service providers from various parts of the country to share experiences and what they are doing to improve service delivery to patients.
    • The Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, called for solutions that will provide answers especially in areas of governance and leadership, health workforce, information systems, service delivery, financing, special groups, and health products.
    • METS made a presentation on improved service delivery models focusing on empowering young women to stay HIV-free with the help of the Determined Resilient Empowered AIDS-free Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) initiative.
  • Gallery
    • Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) launches state-of-the-art auditorium
    • Deploying latest EMR Version at Hoima RRH
    • Training of KCCA staff on use of Point of Care (POC) EMR
    • Stakeholder Workshop on Development of EMR Implementation Guidelines

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New Study Reveals Breastfeeding Mothers Embrace Nutrient-Rich Dish for Health Benefits



Climbing beans on stakes in one of the gardens visited during the Efd-Mak Kabale District Sensitization in November 2021. Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

A study whose results were recently published in Food Science Nutrition, a peer-reviewed journal for rapid dissemination of research in all areas of food science and nutrition has revealed that there is a growing preference for wholesome meals, highlighting its numerous health benefits.

Titled; Lactating mothers’ perceptions and sensory acceptability of a provitamin A carotenoid–iron-rich composite dish prepared from iron-biofortified common bean and orange-fleshed sweet potato in rural western Uganda,” this study was conducted among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers seeking care at Bwera General Hospital, in Kasese district, western Uganda, between 4th and 15th of August 2023.

Researchers in a 2019 study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth among pregnant and breastfeeding women in Northwest Ethiopia discovered that pregnant and breastfeeding women bear the highest burden of this deficiency due to heightened physiological demands for iron and vitamin A. These demands increase significantly during pregnancy to meet fetal needs and continue during lactation to support breastfeeding.

The 2020 report on Developments in Nutrition among 204 countries and territories for 30 years since 1990 highlights the substantial impact of dietary iron deficiency and vitamin A deficiency on women of reproductive age in low- and middle-income countries across Africa and Asia. These micronutrient deficiencies are of paramount concern in public health nutrition due to their adverse effects.

A 2022 study published in The Lancet Global Health reveals that progress in addressing anemia among women of reproductive age (15–49 years) is inadequate to achieve the World Health Assembly’s global nutrition target of reducing anemia prevalence by 50% by 2030 in low- and middle-income countries, including Uganda.

Breastfeeding mothers require a higher intake of iron, ranging from 10–30 mg/day, compared to 8 mg/day for adult males. To help meet this increased need, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends iron supplementation programs during the postpartum period, starting immediately after delivery and continuing for the first 6 weeks.

On the other hand, the WHO advises against vitamin A supplementation during the postpartum period, as it offers no noticeable health benefits to either the mother or the infant. Instead, it encourages breastfeeding mothers to maintain a diversified diet that includes vitamin A-rich foods. However, it’s important to highlight that supplementing with vitamin A and iron during this time could enhance the content of these nutrients in breast milk.

In rural Uganda, breastfeeding mothers often face deficiencies in vital nutrients particularly vitamin A and iron. This is as a result of over reliance on plant-based local foods, like sweet potato and non-iron biofortified common bean like Nambale, which lack sufficient amounts of provitamin A and iron, respectively.

To improve vitamin A and iron intake among breastfeeding mothers, Uganda’s government, in collaboration with HarvestPlus, a global program dedicated to ending hunger through providing nutrient-rich foods launched biofortification programs. These initiatives introduced orange-fleshed sweet potato rich in provitamin A and iron-biofortified common bean as staple food in Uganda.

As part of his postdoctoral study, Dr. Edward Buzigi, a Nutritionist and Food security expert, at University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, evaluated the perceptions and sensory acceptability of a dish made from a combination of orange-fleshed sweet potato and iron-biofortified common bean, known for their high levels of provitamin A carotenoids and iron.

The aim was to determine whether the test food could replace the traditional white-fleshed sweet potato and non-iron biofortified common beans, which lacks these essential nutrients.

Ninety-four breastfeeding mothers took part in the study comparing two foods. Participants assessed the taste, color, aroma, texture, and overall acceptability of both the test and control foods using a five-point scale. Ratings ranged from “dislike very much” to “like very much,” with attributes deemed acceptable if participants rated them as “like” or “like very much.”

Also, focus group discussions were held to explore participants’ thoughts on future consumption of the test food alongside statistical analysis done using the chi-square test to compare sensory attributes between the two food options, while the qualitative data from focus group discussions were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Findings revealed that taste, color, and aroma were satisfactory to the mothers and showed no significant difference between test food and control food. Mothers had favorable views of the taste, aroma, and color of orange-fleshed sweet potato and iron-biofortified common bean but expressed concerns about the soft texture of orange-fleshed sweet potato. Despite this, breastfeeding mothers expressed positive attitudes towards consuming orange-fleshed sweet potato and iron-biofortified common bean, as long as it was accessible, affordable, and easy to prepare.

Dr. Buzigi lecturers at the Department of Community Health and Behavioural Sciences at Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda.

Read the scientific article here;

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Call for Applications: AWE Change Masters fellowship programme support



L-R: The Departments of Family Medicine (School of Medicine) and Human Anatomy (School of Biomedical Sciences) Buildings, College of Health Sciences (CHS), Mulago Hill, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Makerere University College of Health Sciences in collaboration with Duke University, USA are conducting a national collaborative research study on Epilepsy with local leading researchers in the fields of neurology and psychology in Uganda and international experts in the field of neurology and neurosurgery in the USA. The study aims to investigate the panorama of epilepsy in Uganda across the life span by clinically characterizing its features, comorbidities, and risk factors among the general population, with a focus on stigma among adolescents.

Applications are invited for the AWE Change Masters fellowship programme support from postgraduate students of:

  • Makerere University College of Health Sciences
  • Mbarara University of Science and Technology
  • Gulu University

The closing date for the receipt of applications is 22nd May 2024.

Submit all Enquiries and Applications to

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