Ugandan roads have become dangerous. The roads have one of the highest accident rates in the world due to a significant increase in vehicles, especially taxis, buses, and boda-boda riders.
An analysis of traffic accidents in Uganda since 2007 shows that accidents have been increasing with the increase in the number of vehicles. When the number of vehicles hit the 635,656 registration mark in 2010, police recorded 34,412 accidents of which 22,461 vehicles were involved killing 2,954 people. This number is three times higher than Kenya’s registered 7,895 accidents in 2010 yet Kenya’s vehicle and human population numbers are much higher than Uganda’s. At the city centre, boda boda riders crash on a daily basis with several patients admitted at Mulago hospital with trauma and fractures.
The escalating accidents have led to a sharp rise in trauma, injuries and the disability in the country, accounting for 62.5 per cent of the surgery budget at Mulago hospital. The absence of an organised trauma system to transport the injured to hospital makes the situation worse. The injured succumb to their wounds because of the poor quality of healthcare they receive on the way to the hospital.
These victims face permanent or temporary disability, chronic trauma, and huge costs of prolonged rehabilitation. Considering that the biggest percentage of victims are within the 20-44 years age bracket and in the peak of their productivity, trauma reduces their quality of life, and loss of productivity and work hours, thus contributing to the vicious cycle of poverty.
The government and planning authorities need to shift their focus from infectious diseases alone to incorporate trauma care as well. It is essential to build social and institutional capacity to tackle the increasing prevalence of traumatic injuries by decreasing the occurrence and sources of trauma and burns. Standards should also be set and followed to the letter when it comes to road construction. Besides, police should effectively monitor traffic and stamp out reckless driving and ensure strict adherence to the traffic rules and regulations.
The government should equip highway health facilities with ambulances and trauma centres to improve the quality of healthcare. We should not await for high a ranking government official to die in an accident before we wake up to the reality of the growing danger that lies ahead.
Trauma systems in high-income countries have been shown to reduce medically preventable deaths by 50 per cent.