“An expectant mother in Buvuma hoped for a normal and safe delivery just like any other woman on earth. But for women in Buvuma, it was a matter of life or death. The health centre three on the island surrounded by water can only handle ordinary deliveries. In case of C-sections, the expectant mother would need to be ferried to Kiyindi town council, where she can be operated on. But the only ferry available rides on a schedule; three times a day,” former mayor kiyindi town council Dickson Kasujja Kabuye reminisces.
The Kiyindi-Buvuma route currently has one ferry that carries 120 passengers and 8 cars, making three trips each day between Kiyindi landing site in Buikwe district and Kirongo landing site in Buvuma district.
Essentially, there was no emergency medical relief for an expectant mother in need of operation on Buvuma Island.
It all changed in June last year when MTN donated an emergency ambulance water boat to Kiyindi.
The 15 Seater state-of-the-art water rescue vessel would be used to respond to water transport and health emergencies in Buvuma and Buikwe districts among other areas served by the Kiyindi landing site.
The modern water emergency rescue vessel made by Fisheries Training Institute, Entebbe and licensed by Ministry of Works and Transport was worth Ush 52 Million made of fibre glass, enveloped by a waterproof canopy and cushion seats.
It has a Yamaha outboard engine DT 40, anchor, 2 oars, fire extinguisher, 5 lifeguards, first aid box and patient stretcher.
According to Kabuye, the boat has been very useful in transporting patients from Buvuma to access medical services from Buikwe district.
“Almost 50 per cent of the people living in Buvuma are from Buikwe district so the boat helps us to transport them from Buvuma to the main island of Buikwe so it is very useful to us,” he says.
He goes on to narrate; “Previously, there was no way you could transport an expectant mother to Buikwe district because you had to wait for a ferry which moves in shifts. Now it is very easy to transport because this boat runs so fast,” he says.
The boat, Kabuye says takes about 30 minutes to move from Buvuma district to Buikwe mainland in Kiyindi for medical care.
The boat was also very essential during the days of lockdown during which covid-19 patients were transported from Buvuma to Buikwe for medical health care.
“We got about 3-5 COVID-19 patients from Buvuma so it would go and pick them and finds the motor ambulance stationed in Kiyindi,” he says.
Fishermen deaths mitigated
The tales were not unique to the town council. Fishermen live to hail the ambulance which has saved lives of many on the lake.
Paul Jumba, leader of fishermen in Kiyindi mans the emergency boat along with 2 others. He narrates that on his many rides called upon by the town folk, he has saved many people from drowning.
“I have saved some people we have found drowning using our first aid kit,” he says.
But the commonest occurrence is the exhaustion of fuel in water boats on the lake.
“Since there is no petrol station on the lake, we run to the rescue of the fishermen on the lake,” he says.
Jumba also reveals that the boat has transported district officials around the islands to sensitise different members of the public on how to maintain standards of operation such as wearing masks and washing hands.
The donation of the emergency boat followed a request from the fishing community last year when MTN Uganda staff visited Kiyindi landing site to launch their annual staff voluntary program dubbed “21 days of y’ello care”.
Mr Patrick Tusiime, the regional commercial head said MTN is proud to have contributed to the safeguarding of lives around the islands only accessible through water.
“We appreciate the work accomplished by the team manning the boat. MTN prioritizes lives of the people we serve and we are glad that the boat is saving and helping many people in the region,” he also noted.