How ‘Safe’ is that Boda Helmet?

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A health expert has warned that unhygienic use of boda-boda helmets could spread diseases such as tuberculosis and Hepatitis B.

Dr. Teddy Adero, from Kampala Family Clinic, says the helmets may protect the passenger in case of accidents, but that passing them on from one passenger to another without proper cleaning is a recipe for disaster. Dr Adero explains that Tuberculosis and Hepatitis B are some of the diseases that can be easily spread by sharing helmets.

She explains: “Tuberculosis (TB) and Hepatitis B are contagious diseases. If a TB patient wears the helmet and coughs or breathes, the germs remain on the glass and the sponge that is in the helmet. When someone puts on the same helmet and they inhale, they will get infected.”

Are Safe Boda nets safe?

After spending years in the boda-boda business, Ashiraf Ndidde joined the new, mobile app-based transport system started in 2014. He says under Safe Boda they provide passengers with both helmets and hairnets. “Each client is given a net to put on before wearing the helmet. This protects them from sweating and also skin diseases,” he said.

Ndidde added that he takes his motorcycle for washing every after three days and that is when the helmet is washed. “I personally didn’t know that such diseases can be spread from sharing a mere helmet. I thought nets were safe enough to protect clients from diseases,” he explained.

But Dr Adero casts doubts on whether the helmets are properly cleaned. “I am so certain that they don’t clean these helmets after transporting each client,” she added.

Some passengers decide not to use the safety helmets because of health-related issues. Agatha Tumuhirwe, a second year journalism student explains: “I don’t trust those helmets because a lot of people use them. I feel they are not clean so I abstained from using the helmets.”

For Martha Nduhukire, a third-year law student, she’s comfortable travelling without a helmet. “I actually feel so safe when I don’t put on a helmet because I don’t like sharing such stuff with many people,” she said.

And yet this may expose Nduhukire and thousands of other passengers to an even bigger danger in case of an accident. According to the Uganda Police Force, boda-boda accidents in Uganda claimed at least 7,000 lives in the last three years.

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