The global ambassador for Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility, Ms Zoleka Mandela, has called for political commitment among African leaders to reduce death of children through road accidents.
The granddaughter of South Africa’s late President Nelson Mandala, whose 13-year-old daughter died as a result of a road crash, has turned her grief into becoming a strong advocate for safer roads for children, especially.
Zoleka launched her ‘Zenani Mandela Campaign’ in 2012 and was the leading figure behind the ‘Long Short Walk’ in 2013, which saw thousands of people from Cape Town to Washington DC taking to the streets to demand action for road safety.
She also has been a vocal supporter for including ‘better roads and transport’ in the UN’s MY World survey on the Post-2015 priorities.
She made the call at a forum on Safe and Healthy School Journeys in Accra on Tuesday.
Ms Mandela, who is also the chairperson of Zoleka Mandela Foundation, used the occasion to launch a new report titled “Step Change: An Action Agenda on Safe Walking for Africa’s Children”.
The report was published by Amend, a non-governmental organisation which aims at reducing road traffic injury in Africa via the development of evaluation and implementation of evidence-based programmes, in collaboration with Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility and FIA Foundation, an independent UK-based philanthropic body which focuses on safe and sustainable mobility
The report showed that while three-quarters of children walked to and from school, they suffered a severe burden of road traffic injury.
Citing the Global Burden of Disease, it said more than 85,000 African children and youth were killed or severely injured on the continent’s roads annually.
In addition, the report said, road crash was the fifth leading cause of death for children aged over five in many African countries.
Step Change also outlined the life-saving policies and interventions which were urgently required for child safety on the roads.
It advocated prioritising investment for safe walking, through providing footpaths and safe crossing points, as well as reducing vehicle speed by road design and traffic.
According to the report, the above initiatives were low-cost but highly effective public health investment.
Ms Mandela therefore called for collaborative effort among stakeholders in reducing child deaths through road crashes on the continent.
For his part, the Executive Director of FIA Foundation, Mr Saul Billingstey, said a child in sub-Saharan Africa was twice as likely to die in a road crash in any other part of the world.
He added that Africa had the lowest motorisation rate but the most dangerous roads.
The Programme Director of Amend, Ms Ayikai Poswayo, said “Ghana’s greatest resources 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”.