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Mixed-methods community assessment of drowning and water safety knowledge and behaviours on Lake Victoria.

BACKGROUND: Drowning is a major cause of death in Uganda, especially among young adults with water-based occupations and livelihoods. Information about drowning and other water-related deaths and injuries is limited. To address this gap in knowledge, study partners assessed knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about drowning and drowning prevention interventions in the Mayuge district of eastern Uganda.

METHODS: This study consisted of a mixed-methods, cross-sectional community health assessment. Research was conducted in 10 landing sites of 6 subcounties within Mayuge district bordering Lake Victoria and focused on 505 head-of-household interviews, 15 key informant interviews, 10 landing site observations and 3 focus group discussions with 10 young adults each.

RESULTS: While landing site observations revealed high lake use, households reported limited community drowning prevention knowledge and revealed risky behaviours and attitudes towards water safety. Less than one-third (30.9%) of participants reported that at least one family member can swim. 64.2% of all respondents reported no existing safety measures (eg, signage, fences) around the lake and 95.8% reported no aquatic emergency response system in their community. The majority of households (85.7%) had experienced a drowning incident in their area. Key informants and focus group participants were eager for community-based interventions and offered solutions that reflected international drowning prevention recommendations.

CONCLUSIONS: The results reveal gaps in services, access and knowledge and highlight a need for water safety services and interventions in lakeside communities in Uganda and throughout the Lake Victoria Basin.

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