Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Context of boat drowning in Ghana: a mixed qualitative research study
  1. Mawuli Komla Kushitor,
  2. Helen Bour,
  3. Prince Nyame,
  4. Solomon Yabila
  1. School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy Planning and Management, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, Volta Region, Ghana
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mawuli Komla Kushitor, Department of Health Policy Planning and Management, University of Health and Allied Sciences School of Public Health, Hohoe, PMB 31, Ghana; mkushitor{at}


Background Drowning is a significant public health challenge globally. In Africa and Ghana, drowning has remained a silent epidemic among poor communities. Limited evidence has challenged advances in drowning knowledge and prevention. While drowning deaths are often widely circulated in the newspapers, drowning data are not systematically organised to constitute a body of evidence sufficient for scientific exploration. Although drowning was frequent, they were poorly understood. We explore the context of drowning from multiple perspectives from the Volta-basin where the largest man-made lake in the world has become a hotspot for drowning.

Method This study adopts a sequential-mix-qualitative study comprising content analysis of newspaper reports on drowning, structured-observations and in-depth interviews with boaters and fisherfolk. We first explored, the content of newspapers over a 10-year period. This information provided the context of drowning. We followed up with extensive observation of activities on the lake by a team of five. Photovoice qualitative interviews were conducted with 22 boaters, fishers and community members. Thematic content analysis was applied to both the newspaper reports and the in-depth interviews.

Results Drowning was attributed to both proximate and distal causes. Distal causes were the reasons for movement, while proximate causes were the immediate cause of the drowning. Travelling to farm, market, hospital, church, sell were important distal causes of drowning. Proximate determinants included strong winds, tree stumps, overcrowding, no-adherence to safety procedures, spiritual reasons and high tides. Four types of boat accidents were observed: boat-capsizing, boat-sinking, boat-splitting and boat-catching-fire. Ideas converged and diverged in comparing the newspaper content analysis to the photovoice interviews.

  • Drowning
  • Community Research
  • Ethnography
  • Community
  • Exposure

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. The data are available on request.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. The data are available on request.

View Full Text


  • Twitter @helen_bour

  • Contributors This study was designed, developed and drafted by Mawuli Komla Kushitor. The analysis and methodology were done by Helen Bour and Solomon Yabila. Prince Nyame assisted with draft.

  • Funding We are grateful to the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene for their generous support for this study.

  • Map disclaimer The depiction of boundaries on this map does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of BMJ (or any member of its group) concerning the legal status of any country, territory, jurisdiction or area or of its authorities. This map is provided without any warranty of any kind, either express or implied.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.