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Drowning in Uganda: examining data from administrative sources
  1. Tessa Clemens1,2,
  2. Frederick Oporia3,
  3. Erin M Parker2,
  4. Merissa A Yellman2,
  5. Michael F Ballesteros2,
  6. Olive Kobusingye3
  1. 1CDC Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  2. 2National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  3. 3Disease Control and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tessa Clemens, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA; tclemens{at}


Background Drowning death rates in the African region are estimated to be the highest in the world. Data collection and surveillance for drowning in African countries are limited. We aimed to establish the availability of drowning data in multiple existing administrative data sources in Uganda and to describe the characteristics of drowning based on available data.

Methods We conducted a retrospective descriptive study in 60 districts in Uganda using existing administrative records on drowning cases from January 2016 to June 2018 in district police offices, marine police detachments, fire/rescue brigade detachments, and the largest mortuary in those districts. Data were systematically deduplicated to determine and quantify unique drowning cases.

Results A total of 1435 fatal and non-fatal drowning cases were recorded; 1009 (70%) in lakeside districts and 426 (30%) in non-lakeside districts. Of 1292 fatal cases, 1041 (81%) were identified in only one source. After deduplication, 1283 (89% of recorded cases; 1160 fatal, 123 non-fatal) unique drowning cases remained. Data completeness varied by source and variable. When demographic characteristics were known, fatal victims were predominantly male (n=876, 85%), and the average age was 24 years. In lakeside districts, 81% of fatal cases with a known activity at the time of drowning involved boating.

Conclusion Drowning cases are recorded in administrative sources in Uganda; however, opportunities to improve data coverage and completeness exist. An improved understanding of circumstances of drowning in both lakeside and non-lakeside districts in Uganda is required to plan drowning prevention strategies.

  • drowning
  • low-middle income country
  • mortality
  • surveillance
  • epidemiology

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  • Contributors TC, FO, EMP, MAY, MFB and OK contributed to the conception and design of the study. FO managed data collection and provided field supervision. TC manually matched cases, deduplicated the dataset and analysed data. TC, FO, EMP, MAY, MFB and OK interpreted the data. TC led the drafting of the manuscript. All authors contributed to manuscript preparation and reviewed and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies (51606) through the CDC Foundation.

  • Disclaimer The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • 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.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for this study was obtained from Makerere University School of Public Health, Higher Degrees Research and Ethics Committee (HDREC), protocol number 621; with clearance from the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST), approval SS 4777.

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

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Data may be available upon reasonable request from the CDC