Zoleka Mandela calls for safer roads for children

On 13 September 2016, in Accra, Ghana, Zoleka Mandela, Amend, and the FIA Foundation released a report “Step Change: An Action Agenda on Safe Walking for Africa’s Children”. The report details that three quarters of children in sub-Saharan Africa walk to and from school, yet their needs are neglected, with inadequate footpaths or safe crossings and limited efforts to manage vehicle speed. As a result, they suffer a severe burden of road traffic injury. You can find the full report HERE.

Launching the report at the Forum on Safe and Healthy School Journeys in Accra on 13 September 2016, Zoleka Mandela, who is an Ambassador for the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility and the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, said, “We are here today to get to grips with a crisis on our continent that has been ignored for too long. Road traffic injury is the single greatest danger our children face each and every day. It is entirely preventable. What we’re asking for really, is quite simple. We’re asking for protection and safety. Safe walking for all our children surely must be a fundamental right. No excuses are acceptable. This must become a priority in policy making here in Ghana and around the world.”

According to the Global Burden of Disease, more than 85,000 African children and youth are killed or seriously injured on the continent’s roads each year – this is one of the top five causes of death for the over-fives in many Africa countries. Zoleka Mandela presented the report and discussed its findings with Ghana’s Minister of Transport, Hon. Fifi Kwetey.

Step Change outlines the life-saving policies and interventions that are urgently required. Prioritizing investment for safe walking, by providing footpaths and safe crossing points, and by reducing vehicle speed through road design and traffic calming, is a relatively low-cost but highly effective public health investment, says the report. It is an argument that has recently been boosted by inclusion of the objective of ‘safe and healthy journeys to school for every child as a priority’ in the Habitat III New Urban Agenda.

The report has been published by the FIA Foundation and the Amend NGO as part of the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility. Amend is implementing road safety education and infrastructure programs in Ghana and several other countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Their research has shown that providing footpaths, safe crossings, and speed reduction measures in the area around schools can reduce injuries by at least 25%. Ayikai Poswayo, School Area Road Safety Assessments and Improvements (SARSAI) Manager at Amend, said: “Ghana’s greatest resource and hope are its children. We need to do all we can to protect them on the roads and we know how. Now is the time for a real step change on the ground. We cannot afford to fail.”

The Forum brought Ghanaian and international policy makers together to discuss the report’s recommendations and advance the agenda to protect children on the roads across Africa. Participants at the Forum included the Ghana National Road Safety Commission led by May Obiri Yeboah, Executive Director, UNICEF represented by Judy Grayson, Senior Advisor on Child Protection, the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety, which is working in Accra, senior officers on the Ghana Police Service, and representatives of a number of government departments and civil society. The meeting concluded with a commitment to establish a national coalition for safe and healthy school journeys, to explore how a more sustained effort can be made to protect children.

Participants also visited a school close to the N1 ‘George W Bush’ Highway, where heavy traffic is blighting the surrounding communities. At the Christ Mission School in Kwashieman, Amend has delivered its School Area Road Safety Assessment & Improvement (SARSAI) program by building a new footpath and speed humps in the school environs. The event coincided with the return to school of a student, Michael Obeng, who suffered a serious road traffic injury, which kept him in hospital for two months. Michael’s aunt and teacher both spoke about the impact that the injury had on Michael, his family and the wider community.

For more information, visit Amend HERE.