In order to meet its goal of “saving lives on water” National Lake Rescue Institute (NLRI) has developed 4 complete programmes. Each programme has been designed so that it can be easily replicated across Uganda. NLRI currently has three operational Rescue stations. These are in Kampala (Lake Victoria), Kaiso and Wanseko (Both Lake Albert).
The vast majority of Ugandans are unable to swim and have a profound fear of water. This is true even among the fishing communities. In order to reduce the number of deaths as a result of drowning, NLRI advocates the use of lifejackets.
Megafloat is the name of the lifejacket developed by NLRI which can be made in remote areas using local skills and labour. Until the development of the Megafloat, lifejackets were rarely found within rural landing sites and therefore neither available nor affordable to the people that needed them the most.
The Megafloat was tested by various search and rescue organizations and deemed to be a safe and effective floatation aid.
The Megafloat brings local employment, but also enables self-help and self-rescue.
Over 1200 Megafloats have been produced since its development.
The Megafloat Club (MFC)
The concept of water safety and with it the use of lifejackets is not something that is taken seriously in the lake and riverside communities of Uganda. As a means to try and combat this and increase the number of people willing to spend money on a life saving device, National Lake Rescue Institute (NLRI) has created The Megafloat Club(MFC).
The main aim of the MFC is to bring about a change in behaviour through education and awareness. NLRI hope that raising awareness about water safety, through regular educational programmes, will bring about an increase in the use of lifejackets/buoyancy aids and a reduction in the number of accidents that occur on the waterways of Uganda.
Life membership to MFC is by purchase of a Megafloat lifejacket, at a cost of 20,000 UGX (around $11). MFC is subsided by donor support.
MFC member benefits include:
- a water safety briefing
- MFC ID card
- free access to basic water safety, engine maintenance and other related training courses
- access to cheap fishing floats
The Megafloat Club is currently being run from all NLRI Rescue stations and already has over 800 members.
Watoto Apana Zama (WAZ or Kids: Don’t Sink!)
The fatalistic boating culture currently active in Uganda is an inherent trait. Installing safe practices in children now will benefit the community into the future.
It is also hoped that by encouraging and enabling children within waterside communities to have an understanding of water safety and good hygiene, the message will also spread to their families and friends. Therefore helping to improve standards today!
Familiarity with safe boating practices from an early age is integral to any long term change of behaviour and awareness of lake safety. If the experience of safe boating is first highlighted through play and fun, it is more likely that these lessons are retained for the long term.
NLRI has created a range of activities for children to learn about all aspects of water safety:
- Swimming lessons
- Using a Minifloat (Children’s version of the Megafloat)
- Safe boating techniques
- Good hygiene and sanitation
The lessons include hygiene and sanitation because a household survey carried out in the village of Kaiso, showed:
40% of households use raw lake water as drinking water
35% of households have no latrine, using the lake instead
60% of deaths in the previous 6 months were children under 5
Sing what you learn
The children have thoroughly embraced WAZ, creating songs and plays to teach other children what they have learned.
To date over 350 children have attended WAZ lessons. 15 have joined Kaiso’s Youth SAR team.
Women’s Enterprise Group (WEG)
Amelia is the mother of 16 month old twins. Her husband is a fisherman. She worries he will die and not return to support the family.
“The children get sick and the husband returns with no fish so it is really hard.”
Her days are spent “doing nothing just looking after the babies.”
NLRI has brought NOGAMU, National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda to Kaiso to teach agriculture skills to the women. It is the first time any cultivation has been done in the valley. Prior to this it was always fish that was traded for other goods and food stuffs.
By equipping women with marketable skills, it furthers their financial independence and brings much needed energy and focus into their lives. It also enables them to support their families if they are unfortunate enough to become widowed.
Bringing women socially together into a small co-operative farming group also allows NLRI the opportunity to discuss lakeside safety, use of a life jacket, health and sanitation whilst not appearing to change their role in the eyes of the men.
NLRI is currently running two WEG in Kaiso and a third group from HQ in Kampala. On top of the farming being carried out in Kaiso, the women are also producing jewellery from recycled magazines and baskets made from recycled Hessian bags and grass.