‘5,000 drown in Lake Victoria’ is a shocking headline and if they had all died in one incident then the news of it would have traveled around the world. As it is the terrible death toll on the great lake, over a thousand more people killed than die on Kenya’s roads, took place over a year and hardly anyone even in Kenya knows of it, or takes any notice.
SIX YOUNG MEN DROWNED AT THE WEEKEND
On Saturday seven young men and boys (aged between 16 and 21) set out in a makeshift boat from Bumbe beach at about 7.30pm (therefore in the dark). They had been hired by a local fisherman to pull in fishing nets. The boat developed a leak and started to break up. The helmsman, it appears, panicked. Another young man tried to take over and the boat capsized.
Some drowned because they could not swim, some got caught in the nets and drowned, and one 16-year old boy made it to safety.
OVERLOADING, BAD SEAMANSHIP, LACK OF SAFTEY EQUIPMENT…
According to the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), 5,000 people die in drowning incidents on Lake Victoria every year due to overloading, unstable boats, poor seamanship, bad weather and lack of safety equipment.
Yes, those deaths are distributed between the lakeside peoples of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the three countries that share the great lake, but it is a shocking statistic.
NEW SEARCH AND RESCUE STATION
Vincent Hagono, the LVBC’s Maritime Communication and Safety Project Coordinator, recently launched a series of initiatives to try and stem the appalling death rate on Lake Victoria, including the establishment of 16 new search and rescue stations.
“The project entails the establishment of an effective maritime emergency search and rescue organization for the lake”, he told the media gathered in Kakemega, “capable of providing timely assistance to fishing crafts, commuter boats, ships and other vessels in distress”.
MORE NEEDED TO END TRAGIC LOSS OF LIFE
The Kenya Forum notes that the six young men who drowned last weekend did not have the required licence, should not have been allowed to enter on the lake by the local beach management, most could not swim, and as the boat broke up, had no way of calling or signalling for help.
We hope that the LVBC presses ahead with urgency to get the new search and rescue stations in operation but it is going to take the implementation of a far more multi-layered approach before the tragic annual loss of life on Lake Victoria is brought to an irreducible minimum.