Friday, 30 March 2012

Make roads safe for children, urges development NGO

Justin Forsyth at Save the Children's London headquarters
Justin Forsyth is Chief Executive of Save the Children, one of the world's leading development NGOs. He was previously the development adviser to UK Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street and one of the architects of the Make Poverty History campaign. He recently spoke to us about road safety, Rio+20 and why the world needs to wake up to the scale of the road injury epidemic:

"At Save the Children we have thousands of children's groups, and I meet them when I travel around the world whether in Ethiopia or India or Liberia or recently even in Afghanistan. They are groups that sit down and talk about the challenges that they face in their community, and they often raise this issue about how unsafe it is to walk along the road to school, or to go and collect water. And this is an issue that they want to address. So we should listen to the children, and the world leaders meeting at the Rio+20 conference and at other big international meetings should take action.  Because the children know that this is a really dangerous issue for them and it really affects their well-being. It might mean that they get disabled or it might mean even that their lives are ended by some truck or car that is racing along a road when they are trying to get to school.

"We’ve made all of this progress in the last decade in cutting the number of children that die from things like pneumonia and diarrhoea and we’ve also had huge numbers of children going to school for the first time. But this will stall and we won’t continue to make progress unless we deal with this hidden problem, this hidden crisis, of children - often walking along roads to get to school or having to cross a busy road to go and fetch water, or just going to see their friends - being run over and disabled or even being killed. And the tragedy that so many children face because of this hidden crisis is just appalling.

 "I don’t think decision makers and politicians have really seen this as a problem because they haven’t seen the connection between roads being unsafe and achieving the big goals that they set. So you want to get all the world’s children into school but you also want them to get to school safely. Most children actually walk to school. Often they are in danger of being run over by a truck or their lives are going to be threatened by a drunk driver in a car. So we’ve got to make the route to school safe, and for children who go and collect water - and it’s mainly children and often girls, the poorest children, who go and collect the water from villages - we’ve got to make those journeys safe.

 "I think the Rio+20 Conference and other meetings coming up, whether it is G8 or G20, is an opportunity for world leaders to get to grips with this issue, this hidden problem, that has not really being addressed for many years, which will stall the progress that has been made to stop children from being killed from preventable illnesses, or get a chance to go to school. We set all of these goals in the world but this problem is really one that has been completely neglected.

"I think to get big change on any issue requires a combination of people organising at a grassroots level, at a national level and even at a global level. And I think the big push on this issue about making roads safe is so important that we need action at all of those different levels. We need to listen to the children themselves who want action on this issue. But we also then need politicians at a national level in the key countries where we do need to make roads safe, to listen and to take action. At the global level whether it is at the Rio+20 meeting or other big international meetings, we need to agree frameworks that then galvanise people at national level to take action. Save the Children and other organisations can play our part in helping push that along so that we get the action that is needed."

Justin Forsyth was interviewed by Richard Stanley on behalf of the Make Roads Safe campaign and the Road Safety Fund. This is an edited transcript.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Call for action at Rio+20

"Don't blow the chance to make mobility safer and more sustainable". That is the message to governments meeting in New York today ahead of June's Rio+20 UN Sustainable Development Conference. It is delivered in a powerful article and film by development campaigner Kevin Watkins on the Guardian's Global Development website.

The call for action on road safety at Rio+20 launches the Road Safety Fund's new partnership with the Guardian. Through a grant from the FIA Foundation we are enabling a new space within the Guardian's widely read Global Development site dedicated to examining road safety as a development issue. The site is managed solely by the Guardian and is entirely editorially independent, and we hope it will host a wide range of viewpoints and news on road safety and increase the media reporting and public awareness of this neglected issue.


Friday, 23 March 2012

Bloomberg donates 'helmets for kids'

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York and leading road safety philanthropist, has participated in a 'helmets for kids' ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam, seeing first hand the 'helmet vaccine' work being done by the AIP Foundation.

The event, supported by WHO and Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the government of Vietnam, saw more than 1000 children recieve motorcycle helmets at Nam Trung Yen school, where 75 teachers also recieved training in helmet use education as part of the initiative. While 95% of the school's students are driven to school on their parent's motorbikes only a quarter of them wore helmets, and with most of the parents on average or low income, purchasing quality helmets is not a priority.

"Giving children the tools to stay safe on the road is hugely important here in Vietnam", said AIP Foundation President Greig Craft. "In addition to school-based programs, our organization runs national public awareness campaigns in collaboration with the government. In 2007, the passage of an adult helmet law increased helmet use from 10% to 98% overnight, saving thousands of lives. This can happen again, for children, and today's partner collaboration exemplifies how it can be done."

The project Mayor Bloomberg was visiting - funded through his 'Road Safety in 10 Countries' (RS10) initiative - is also one of the flagship programmes for the Road Safety Fund, which this year will direct at least $300,000 from philanthropic and corporate donations to supporting AIP Foundation's 'helmet vaccine initiative' in Vietnam and Cambodia. Other major donors to the programme include Atlantic Philanthropies. More than 500,000 helmets have been distributed to children since the programme was launched by President Bill Clinton in 2000. And with only 20% of motorcycle-riding children wearing helmets in Hanoi, the need for more support is great.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Soccer legend aims for Decade goal

Former England football captain Gary Lineker, now the host of 'Match of the Day' on BBC TV, has endorsed the Decade of Action at an event for young drivers hosted by Manchester United.

Lineker, who was the lead scorer at the 1990 World Cup, knows a thing or two about goals. And he recognised that to achieve the Decade's goals it will be crucially important to help young people safely navigate the first few years of solo driving.

"The world has changed in so many ways over the past 30 years", said Lineker. "The roads are
busier, cars more powerful and young drivers have to cope with way more distractions. As any parent will know, there are real concerns and worries attached to being a mum or dad when your son or daughter heads out on those first few solo journeys. Every one of us has the potential to influence the way a young person will drive. It's our shared responsibility to be good role models and take driving as seriously as we hope they will".
For more see Make Roads Safe and watch the super striker in action here.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Every 6 seconds...

Every six seconds someone is killed or seriously injured on the world's roads. Everything we are doing to try to prevent this, whether it is supporting pedestrian accessibility surveys in Kenya, motorcycle helmet campaigns in Vietnam, independent car crash tests in Brazil or technical workshops in India, is only possible because of the funding provided by our partners, both corporate and philanthropic. Now we've brought together some of these partners, including Global Decade Supporters such as Allianz, Bosch, Johnson & Johnson, Shell and UPS,  in a new short film to explain why they are concerned about road traffic injuries and how they are engaging with the Decade of Action. The film also includes interview with the world's leading road safety philanthropist, Michael Bloomberg, as well as inspiring leaders from within the UN system. Watch it here.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

iRAP Award for Philippines

The Philippines has been awarded the 2011 International Road Assessment Programme Award for the country's work in assessing and safety-rating more than 3000 kilometres of road, 12% of the national network carrying 30% of traffic. The Award was presented by iRAP's Asia/Pacific Director Greg Smith (seen here at far right launching the project last year) in Bangkok on 8th March at the Global Road Safety Partnership's annual 'Asia Seminar'. The Philippines iRAP project, which is led by the government with support from the Automobile Association of the Philippines, recieved high level backing when the country's President, Benigno Aquino, participated in the launch. Recommendations from the survey, which was financed with a grant from the Global Road Safety Facility, prioritise the building of footpaths and safe crossing points to protect pedestrians. A second phase of the project is now underway with support from AusAID, the Australian overseas aid agency. Core funding for iRAP's operations is provided by the FIA Foundation, in part through a grant to the Road Safety Fund.  

Friday, 9 March 2012

Young CORE workshop at WHO

The Road Safety Fund has co-funded a capacity development workshop for young road safety activists coordinated by YOURS, the 'Youth for Road Safety' NGO. YOURS was established following the first World Youth Assembly for Road Safety during UN Road Safety Week in 2007. The meeting, hosted at WHO headquarters in Geneva, brought together a 'CORE' cadre of YOURS regional coordinators to plan their activities and strategic communication in support of the Decade of Action. The meeting was supported through the Fund by Johnson & Johnson, and also by Michelin. For more details see here.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

To school, safely

More children are benefitting from Safe Kids Worldwide's 'Walk this Way' programme, which is supported by FedEx in part through a donation to the Road Safety Fund. The latest school to be included in the scheme is Nguyen Tri Phuong primary school, one of 32 participating schools in Trang Bom District, Dong Nai province. The scheme, managed in Vietnam by SKW's national partner AIP Foundation, includes safety training workshops for staff, reflective vests for children and infrastructure improvements around schools to improve pedestrian safety. See here for more.