Diana Atwine, the ministry’s permanent secretary told New Vision that the plan to acquire the boat ambulances has been around even before the recent party boat accident that claimed over 30 lives.
Diana Atwine, the ministry's permanent secretary. Photo/File
KAMPALA - As preliminary preparations for the 2019/2020 financial year kickoff, Ministry of Health has prioritised the acquisition of two boat ambulances to strengthen the emergence response on water bodies.
According to the ministry, the acquisition of the boat ambulances will help prevent deaths, which have been occurring whenever disasters hit on the water bodies.
Diana Atwine, the ministry's permanent secretary told New Vision that the plan to acquire the boat ambulances has been around even before the recent party boat accident that claimed over 30 lives.
Atwine, however, noted that the boat ambulances are expensive to acquire and later fuel and that was the main reason they have taken long to consider purchasing them.
According to Alibababa.com a global business website, a boat ambulance costs between $10,000 (sh37.5m) to $600,000 (2.25bn).
Atwine said one of the two ambulances will be deployed in Kalangala and another in Buvuma Islands.
"The boat ambulances will also help particularly expectant mothers and accident victims who need emergence care," Atwine said.
The move to purchase boat ambulances comes at the heels of a gruesome accident that happened on Lake Victoria on Saturday, November 24 in which over 30 people died when a cruise boat capsized. The dead were young corporates and wealth business men who were on a routine weekend boat cruise.
The boat cruise is popular among young and wealthy Ugandans.
Following the accident, Ugandans appealed to government to improve water transport safety measures including acquiring boat ambulances and training rescuers to save lives.
There were reports that some of the victims of the cruise boat accident would have been saved if rescue teams arrived on time with ambulance boats. The victims spent a lot of time calling for help as the boat capsized.
The spokesperson of Uganda Red Cross, Irene Nakasiita welcomed the plan and asked the ministry to equip the ambulance boats and the people manning them.
"Any effort to save lives is important but we need more of the boats on our water bodies," Nakasiita said, observing that boat ambulances can help if rescuers are trained to do their work.
Buvuma Island County MP, Robert Migadde Ndugwa also welcomed the move, arguing that it is what they have been asking for years and that it was long overdue. "Last week, we lost 10 people in a gruesome accident on the Islands, six of whom we would have saved if we had a boat ambulance," he said. "We have also lost a significant number of expectant mothers because of absence of ambulance boats."
Migadde noted that Buvuma Islands lacks both water and road ambulances yet they don't have a referral hospital which means most of the patients are referred to Mulago and Kawolo Hospitals miles away from the landing site.
State Minister for Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru has been appealing to the ministries and government departments to play a role in preparing for disasters.
Ecweru told New Vision recently that disasters are claiming lives because other ministries abandoned the role of planning and preparing for disasters to his docket.
According to the New York Times, boat accidents are increasingly common on East African's major lakes, including L. Victoria, which is surrounded by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Over 200 people died in September after an overcrowded Tanzanian ferry capsized on L. Victoria.
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