Wherever there is a war, a natural disaster, or a social event like the MTN marathon, the Ugandan Red Cross is always on call. Founded in 1962 in Uganda, the organisation brings food, water and emergency care anywhere they are needed.
They try to ease human suffering in the after-effects of disasters and accidents. The Red Cross, made up of volunteers, is not only always there to offer first aid to any victims of injury, but also gives relief to the child and maternal health care centres. The Uganda Red Cross is the biggest indigenous humanitarian organisation in Uganda. Gilbert Kidimu spoke to Uganda Red Cross secretary general, Michael Richard Nataka about Red Cross activities in Uganda this year
Q:What is Red Cross focussing on this year?
A: This year's theme is First Aid and Road Safety. It spells out first aid, which has always been the central activity of the Red Cross. It was started by a Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, who had been appalled at the suffering of thousands of men, on both sides, who were left to die due to lack of care after the Battle of Solferino in 1859.
Overtime, although involved mainly in war situations; even during peace, there are injuries that require first aid which need our volunteers and staff to offer relief.
Every day, there are numerous injuries as a result of road and water transport, especially road.
In Uganda, road transport is the leading cause of injuries. We are thus focusing on road safety, aiding and creating public awareness on the need for road safety hence the theme, First Aid and Road Safety.
Where are road accidents most common in Uganda?
The central region has the most number of injuries since there is more traffic than in any other part of the country. There are more people and automobiles.
The major highways such as western, northern and eastern highways also register high number of accidents.
What have you done so far in respect to first aid and road safety?
What we have done in this year is first aid training, where we equip people with basic first aid skills.
We offer five courses on first aid, both at community and professional levels. At professional level, employees from companies are trained in offering first aid.
We are also pushing for public awareness about road safety to ensure that boda boda cyclists and other motorists are trained to ensure their own safety and that of other road users.
We have been offering first aid services at public functions and anywhere people are injured.
This year, we are also providing first aid equipment o our branches around the country so that they are in place to respond effectively in case of disaster.
Who are you working with to ensure the project is a success?
The Belgium and Danish Red Cross are key partners; funding health activities, especially community-based first aid.
Other partners are the corporate organisations whose staff we train; the Ministry of Health is a major partner, especially during public functions and FUFA sports events, among others.
Red Cross team carrying a victim:
What change do you want to see at the end of First Aid and Road Safety project?
We want to see increased awareness about road safety among road users, especially boda boda cyclists, who are the major cause of accidents. We want to set up trauma centres at major roads for effective response.
In case, there are accidents, there should be access to trauma centres and immediate treatment. Currently, there is only one trauma centre in the whole country at Mulago hospital.
We aim at providing an effective ambulance service by procuring over 20 ambulances, a team of paramedics, and work with major hospitals to co-ordinate with so that after first aid, the injured are given complete medical care.
Injuries are bound to happen, without notice. Your timely response can be the decisive factor between life and death:
Like any other developing country, Road transport is the dominant mode of transport with about 95% of the Uganda's goods traffic and about 99% of passenger traffic. The mode offers great advantages of fl exibility exemplified by jumping onto a boda boda when one has to beat traffic, delivering children to school and travelling to the country side. But while doing all this, we are making big risks as the Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, indicates that Uganda had 2,954 deaths in 2010 as a result of road traffi c crashes, as well as registering 18,528 road traffi c crashes according to
Uganda Police Report (2012). And these are the reported ones.
There're those hit and run cases which are not reported. At the global level, Road Traffi c crashes are the leading cause of death among people, aged 15-44 years old with 90% of road traffic deaths and injuries occurring in developing countries which have only 48% of the world's registered vehicles.
A significant economic, political, social and psychological road safety burden in developing countries is caused by time-sensitive avoidable road traffi c crashes. While the provision of timely and professional first aid during life-threatening emergencies is not a priority for many road safety actors in Uganda, it makes a difference between life and death/disability. This year's theme for the World First Aid Day is 'First Aid & Road Safety' upon which URCS congratulates both the public and private partners. But there is still work to do.
- First aid saves lives. It is a vital initial step for providing effective and swift action that helps to reduce serious injuries and improve the chances of survival. Indeed, the response time (time taken to refer a casualty to hospital setting) in Uganda is usually above 10 minutes, prehospital emergency medical care at first contact, during transportation, and regional referral facilities can make a very big difference. First aid delivered by lay bystanders is the fi rst step in the chain of survival. A high percentage of deaths occur in the first critical hour of road traffi c crashes where first aid skills can play a vital role in saving lives.
- First aid is a humanitarian action that should be accessible to all. At the mention of the word itself, 'first aid' might look rather a medical course best suited for medical professionals. This is not true as everyone has the potential and capacity to learn and provide first aid to save a life.
Have you ever imagined what you would do if you were bitten by a snake or if you were called to rescue a child who has drowned? Does your organization or school have a response agenda in case of an occupational health, safety and related risks come along during your working time? First aid training should be provided to all individuals, as everyone stands the risk of being exposed to an accident and may need to take action.
- URCS is working towards a short digit nationally accepted and functional emergency toll free line is of key importance. Over the years, we've had a number of emergency lines affiliated to a number of institutions. But in the world of emergencies, experience has shown that, people can only remember to call for help but the number should be as short as possible, at least 3 digits. This emergence toll free line for road traffic crashes, community emergencies like burns, snake bites, poisoning, and fevers. It should then be managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- URCS has the capacity to run a fully certified basic fi rst aid course for all learner drivers before they are taken for Police tests. Every driver should have the correct skills and knowledge to effectively carry out basic first aid techniques. Drivers including 2 wheeled motor vehicles should attend refresher courses and have a valid first aid certifi cate which should be renewed for every three years as the validity of the driving permit held.
Is it not possible that organizations can begin to enforce such policies before we leave the plates to the government?
Such first aid trainings should be conducted by reputable institutions. How about car suppliers and two wheeled vehicles ensuring that first aid kits and protective items (helmets, safety vest, triangle) available in every vehicle.
- Together with the Ministry of Education structures, URCS is working towards advancing First Aid curriculum and training consequently accruing to more teachers trained in first aid, and capable of running first aid topics while in schools. Students in higher institutions of learning too need such trainings in order to cultivate a culture of safety.
- URCS and its partners also plans to support existing public health structures at district and regional levels with functional Prehospital Care & Trauma Management Centers not only to prevent injuries but also to mitigate their consequences and enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities. Such centers would recognize that the prehospital care of people who have been injured especially on the roads and in communities as well as injury surveillance.
Considerable good may be accomplished by ensuring that severely injured people receive simple but life sustaining care within minutes of injury. While working to substantiate on the existing public health structures by government, carefully selected and trained bystanders, community volunteers and other citizens would work with professional health-care providers and the formal medical care structures, to provide effective and sustainable prehospital trauma care, regardless of a nation's level of resources.
The Uganda Red Cross Society-a member of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is one of the leading fi rst aid educators and providers. Uganda Red Cross is renowned for training first aid community volunteers, organizations, academic and non academic institutions and empower them every year to save lives impartially and without discrimination.
To continuously review and upgrade existing first aid training practices and quality, we encourage first aid graduates to attend refresher courses to bring their performance to a higher level, and maintain the knowledge and skills throughout their life. Road Safety remains a silent, but sure disaster of which 'small' changes like promoting 'basic emergency skill care' coupled by behavioral shifts like putting on a helmet, avoiding speeding, seatbelt, avoiding drunk driving or under infl uence can make a big difference between life and death.
Interestingly, we are not dealing here with a disease that challenges our scientific knowledge, with a complex financial crisis, or with natural disaster that we are powerless to predict. Cars can be replaced, people can't. There is an urgent need to develop and strengthen emergency medical care systems in Uganda. A strong focus is made on developing the capacity and providing an enabling environment of local communities in emergency medical care to improve the health of populations and meeting expectations for access to emergency care.
While the Uganda Red Cross through its national societies partners of Belgium Red Cross Flanders have continued to conduct first aid trainings, initiating public dialogue, strong fi rst aid service, solid fi rst aid policy and advocacy to improve road safety outcomes in the five pillars of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 namely: Road Safety Management, Safer roads, Safer vehicles, safer road users and improved post crash care, a lot needs to be done in public private partnerships.
- On 14th September 2014, URCS in partnership with Uganda Traffic Police, Boda Boda association and UTODA shall conduct a fi rst aid simulation activity in Kasubi, with the main goal of making all road users and the general public aware about first aid skills in helmet removal, transportation of injured casualties, management of bleeding and fractures. "First aid and road safety go hand in hand.
You never can tell when an accident or health emergence will arise. So, its best to be prepared" Brian Kanaahe Bilal Programme Manager Community Based Health & First Aid "Road safety is everyone's concern. We need to mobilize new resources and strengthen national society capacities for implementation of evidence based multisectoral programmes and projects for reducing road crash death and serious injury' Dr Baguma Bildard, Under Secretary General, Programmes & Projects