Friday, 21 December 2012

Tunataka tuta

Children in Dar negotiate roads on the way to school
photo copyright: Amend
Our NGO partner Amend has written a powerful op-ed for the Guardian development website on the impact of rising traffic and badly planned roads in Tanzania's capital Dar es Salaam. Tom Bishop, Amend's Africa Director, writes about riots after communities suffer road casualties, with people urging 'tunataka tuta' - we want speed bumps. He writes:

"Narrow dirt roads, which wind through sprawling unplanned residential areas, are being paved – the tarmac squeezing out pedestrians and leaving no room for footpaths. People have little choice other than to walk on the roads, with cars flying past on one side, and deep, dangerous storm drains on the other. These new roads are deathtraps, especially after dark when the congestion has eased, the traffic police have gone home and the drink-drivers treat the streets as their own.

Elsewhere in the city, roads are being widened with no traffic management systems, parked cars block footpaths, traffic lights function intermittently due to frequent power cuts, and an increasing number of motorcycle taxis are being driven by unlicensed, untrained young men.

People in Dar want safe roads. The dirt road outside my house was upgraded last week, transforming it from potholes and craters, where cars could barely go faster than 5mph, to a smooth, compacted surface used as a rat-run by speeding taxis, 4x4s and cheap Chinese motorbikes. Within a day, the local community had dug up parts of the road to create informal speed bumps, and had scattered rocks and disused tyres to slow the movement of traffic in an attempt to keep themselves and their children safe.

I have seen riots at schools after a pupil has been killed or injured. It is becoming increasingly common for children to lie down in the roads, forcing traffic to stop until the police and local MP arrive, promising speed bumps. But doing this after the event is too late".

The Road Safety Fund is supporting Amend's community safety programme in Dar, a pilot project working with schools and local communities to improve road infrastructure for pedestrians and to encourage local people to advocate for greater safety measures, like lower speed limits, pavements and safe crossing points. This is an important agenda for child injury prevention and pedestrian safety, and one which will be a priority in 2013 as the UN Global Road Safety Week focuses on pedestrians, and we lead the Long Short Walk campaign with our partner organisations.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Road injury high in Global Burden of Disease

The Lancet has published the new Global Burden of Disease study, the largest ever global report on the causes and distribution of disease, injury and other health risk factors. The study was led by the Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation, at the University of Washington, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and provides a picture of how life expectancy and causes of death and disability have changed over twenty years from 1990 to 2010.

The study confirms the rise in road traffic injury - with deaths increasing by almost half over two decades - to be the tenth leading cause of death overall. It also finds a shift from communicable to 'non communicable' disease, partly through some success in combating early childhood disease and partly through demographic change, with an increase in the overall share of DALYS (Disability Adjusted Life Years) lost due to premature death and disability amongst young adults as compared to child aged under five.

Some of the findings relating to road injury:

-  Road-traffic crashes were the number one killer of young people and accounted for nearly a third of the world injury burden - a total of 76 million DALYS in 2010, up from 57 million in 1990.

- The fraction of global deaths due to injuries (5.1 million deaths) was marginally higher in 2010 (9.6%) compared with two decades earlier (8.8%). This was driven by a 46% rise in deaths worldwide due to road traffic accidents (1.3 million in 2010) and a rise in deaths from falls.

The study also says:
"To put road injury in context, it accounts for 53% more burden than tuberculosis. Road injury shows a classic inverted U-shaped pattern with the largest DALY rates and highest rank as a cause of burden in regions that are upper low-income or middle-income. Nevertheless, even in the demographically and epidemiologically advanced regions, road injury is in the top 16 causes. The distribution of road injury by specific subcause is also important for policy: in seven developing regions more than 40% of road injury deaths are in pedestrians including all sub-Saharan African regions, south and east Asia, and Andean Latin America. Motorised two-wheel vehicles account for more than 20% of road injury deaths in southeast and east Asia and tropical Latin America. The local patterns of road injury and publications on road safety argue that most road injury is preventable. Some high-income countries such as Australia have been able to reduce the death rate from road injuries by 43·7% since 1990, providing a population level demonstration that many deaths are preventable. Various global initiatives on road safety have been launched but they remain relatively weakly funded and are yet to have a demonstrable effect on the rising burden from road injury globally. Continued attention from both the health sector and the transport sector will be needed to address this growing challenge".

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Observer spotlight on killer road

A major article in today's Observer magazine on the N2 highway in Bangladesh, one of the most dangerous roads ever surveyed by the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) . Around 60% of casualties on the highway are pedestrians, because the design of the new road took no account of the people living, working and walking alongside it. The Road Safety Fund is proud to be supporting the work of iRAP, which maps, assesses and rates these killer roads, and proposes detailed and costed infrastucture improvements. Many of these remedies are extremely cost-effective, and governments and the development banks are being encouraged to ensure that no roads are built or upgraded to less than a 3 star iRAP standard. Achieving this on the highest risk roads would save many thousands of lives.