Death came without warning to Ugandan fisherman Mokassa. Surprised by inclement weather on Lake Victoria, his small, makeshift boat started rocking heavily between the tall waves. Mokassa lost his balance, careened into the water, got tangled in his own netting and drowned.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) estimates that about 5,000 people die per year in a similar manner on East Africa’s Lake Victoria, the second-biggest freshwater body of the world. Lake Rescue East Africa, a nonprofit dedicated to improve safety on the treacherous 70,000 square-kilometer lake, calls it the “arguably most dangerous stretch of water in the world in terms of fatalities per square kilometer.” Sometimes it only takes mere minutes for a perfectly sunny day to turn into a pitch-black storm on this lake.
That’s why death is a common companion for roughly 200,000 fishermen from the shores of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. “I was shocked to learn that during a survey last year, 93 per cent of the fishermen in Uganda said they knew of more than one accident in which two or more people drowned,“ says Professor Nick van de Giesen, a senior climate expert from the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.