Are swimming pools the new deathtrap?

The Mestil Hotel swimming pool where P7 candidate drowned. COURTESY PHOTO

A thirteen-year-old Primary Seven Candidate who was due to sit his Primary Leaving Exams on Monday drowned in a swimming pool at Mestil Hotel in Nsambya, Kampala – an incident most have concluded was caused by negligence from the hotel management.

The deceased is said to have often frequented the hotel for the same services until Sunday, November 4, when he met his death in the pool.

The media has been awash with several other stories of adults who too have taken a shortcut to the creator through the swimming pool.

Victor Mbuga, for example, was a 22-year old Uganda Christian University (UCU) student drowned at Big Fun Entertainment in Mbarara on April 8, 2016.

Two people were arrested in connection to his murder but later released. In April this year, John Paul Mirimu, 22, a student of Information Systems at Makerere University died upon arrival at Mulago Hospital after drowning in a university hall swimming pool.

Other related incidents include one of Kevin Waswa, a 17-year-old pupil of Kiswa Primary School in Bugolobi who drowned at Silver Springs hotel during the Christmas holiday.

Tycoon Charles Sseruganda, the Proprietor of Charles Enterprises died in March 2017 after drowning in a swimming pool at Country Inn in Masindi town. It is alleged that he hit his head on the side walls of the pool.

Although most swimming pools have full-time assistants and swimming trainers, they have proven to be a deathtrap that continues to haunt the owners, swimmers and their families.

There are currently no available statistics to quantify the number of swimming pool accidents in Uganda; the trend at which they are recurring is worrying.

According to the Uganda Police Spokesperson, Emilian Kayima, the accidents can be attributed to the rising levels of pool development without the necessary measures in place to tame swimmers – especially children from accessing them.

“Ideally, every swimming pool should be well gazetted and manned at all times so that people who are poor or weak at swimming are guided on how to go about it. Water has no master. Even if you are a gold medalist in the Olympics, the pool can kill you,” he said.

This is a point of view that Moses Kalanzi, the founder of Swim Safe Uganda shares. Kalanzi even founded a nongovernment organisation to promote water safety through multiple training workshops to ensure professionalism, efficiency and quality services among lifesavers and pool attendants in Uganda.

“Uganda has 241,551 square kilometres of land and 41,028 is covered by water. It is no wonder Uganda has one of the highest rates of drowning in the world and we don’t even have a coastline. Imagine we had one,” Kalanzi said.

“Uganda’s drowning toll is in excess of 8,000 annually, the sixth highest level in the world,” he added.

Kalanzi now wants a law in place to force all recreation centres to have 24-hours lifesavers and trained personnel that can also train others on healthy swimming mechanisms.

His organisation that started in 2011 has so far trained over 300,000 personnel and over 100,000 people – the majority being children, teachers, lifeguards, coxswains and tots.