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WHO to heads of state: address road traffic deaths as priority

Justina Asishana, Sweden

 

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged heads of state, governments and others to address road traffic deaths through political will and by putting the issue as an important priority of their agenda.

Its Director of the Department of Social Determinants Dr. Etienne Krug stated this as about 80 ministers and deputy ministers, including 27 from African countries, will be meeting today and tomorrow at the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety to deliberate on how to reduce road crashes and improve road safety.

No fewer than 1700 participants from 140 countries are expected to attend the meeting.

Krug, who spoke to reporters, said road traffic crashes, deaths, and injuries have become development issues that need urgent attention.

He explained that the reason for the conference is to develop the political will to address the issue of road safety in countries.

“The key to address road traffic deaths is political will. The key for us is that the head of state, head of government or the prime minister decide to put this as an important priority on his agenda.

“There  is no magic bullet; there need to be a combination of methods that address the entire road safety system, the infrastructure issue, the vehicles, people’s behaviour, trauma care system, all of that supported by solid data information and led by multi-sectoral efforts.”

Krug said the conference would set the agenda for the next decade of action in road safety agencies, which aims to see the reduction of road traffic crashes by 50 per cent.

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“We hope to set the agenda for the next 10 years and add road safety to be part of the SDG. We hope to see a 50 per cent reduction by 2020. It is possible, we know what needs to happen. It is a question of seeing it happen by putting in the measures on road safety.

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“In the last decade, we saw in the European Union, a 20 per cent decrease in road crashes and injuries. In Russia, 30 per cent decrease and in Brazilian cities, 50 to 60 per cent decrease. It is possible. We just need to do more.”

The WHO Director said during different plenary discussions, ministers, senior officers in road transport ministries and agencies across the world would learn about the lessons from the last decade of action, how to have good leadership, how do we finance road and other priorities for the next 10 years.

“We hope that the conference will be able to shift attention to safe and active transport modes, address speeding, respond to the needs of children, accelerate development technology and engaged private sector.

“It is our hope also that the conference will lead us in a different direction. From a century of unsafe, dirty and passive transport to a century of safe, clean and active transport.”

But, an international organisation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, has announced that it is committing $240 million between 2020 and 2025 on global road safety.

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This is aimed saving 600,000 lives and preventing 22 million injuries in low and middle-income countries.

The organisation, in a statement in Sweden at the road safety conference, said the reinvestment would be for six years and would double the impact of road safety.

According to the statement, over 312,000 lives have been saved and up to 11.5 million injuries have been prevented since 2007.

“Over the past 12 years, Bloomberg Philanthropies has invested $260 million to curb deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes. That investment has led 10 countries – China, Russia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Kenya, Brazil, Turkey, and India – and 12 localities to change their laws or policies to reduce at least one road safety risk factor. Over 3.5 billion people are now covered by a new road safety law or policy since the initiative began,” the statement read.

The commitment would also include a new awards competition to shine a light on low and middle-income countries that have made exemplary progress in road safety.

Director of Public Health at Bloomberg Philanthropies Kelly Henning said by increasing its commitment to road safety, Bloomberg Philanthropies would be able to double its impact by leveraging on the lessons learned in the past and adopt new approaches that will accelerate progress in road safety.

 

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