Drowning is a significant public health challenge globally. In Africa and Ghana, drowning has remained a silent epidemic among poor communities. Limited evidence has challenged advances in drowning knowledge and prevention. While drowning deaths are often widely circulated in the newspapers, drowning data are not systematically organised to constitute a body of evidence sufficient for scientific exploration. Although drowning was frequent, they were poorly understood. We explore the context of drowning from multiple perspectives from the Volta-basin where the largest man-made lake in the world has become a hotspot for drowning.
This study adopts a sequential-mix-qualitative study comprising content analysis of newspaper reports on drowning, structured-observations and in-depth interviews with boaters and fisherfolk. We first explored, the content of newspapers over a 10-year period. This information provided the context of drowning. We followed up with extensive observation of activities on the lake by a team of five. Photovoice qualitative interviews were conducted with 22 boaters, fishers and community members. Thematic content analysis was applied to both the newspaper reports and the in-depth interviews.
Drowning was attributed to both proximate and distal causes. Distal causes were the reasons for movement, while proximate causes were the immediate cause of the drowning. Travelling to farm, market, hospital, church, sell were important distal causes of drowning. Proximate determinants included strong winds, tree stumps, overcrowding, no-adherence to safety procedures, spiritual reasons and high tides. Four types of boat accidents were observed: boat-capsizing, boat-sinking, boat-splitting and boat-catching-fire. Ideas converged and diverged in comparing the newspaper content analysis to the photovoice interviews.