Strong leadership needed to curb traffic accidents, says top UN official

ADDIS ABEBA – A strong leadership is needed in order to curb traffic accident and related deaths and injuries in Africa, said Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) .

The UN is marking a Global Road Safety Week, which runs from 6-12 May, this week. Its officials are rallying a call for strong leadership around the globe to advance road safety in countries and communities.

The campaign has an ambitious goal – to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020.

Underpinned by SDG Goal 3.6, which calls on governments to take new steps to reduce road traffic fatalities, the campaign is pushing for strong leadership at national and local levels for the world to attain road safety, as this is a critical component of achieving the sustainable development goals.

Ms Songwe has decried the risk of death from road traffic accidents in Africa.

“The figures, which stand as high as 26.6 per 100,000 compared to 17.0 in South-East Asia and 9.3 in Europe, according to the 2018 WHO Report on Road Safety, and analysis by the ECA should cause us to make major changes in policy and legislation,” she said.

Furthermore, Road Safety Performance Reviews, jointly undertaken by ECA and the Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, show the extent of the road safety challenge in countries like Uganda and Cameroon.

The accident severity index in Uganda reveals that 24 people are killed per 100 road crashes.

On average, Uganda loses 10 people per day in road traffic crashes, the highest level in East Africa.

The impact is equally tragic.

The overall annual cost of road crashes is currently estimated at approximately US$1.2 billion, representing 5 percent of Uganda’s GDP.

In Cameroon, 16,583 road accidents and 1,500 deaths are recorded on average every year. The risk of road deaths is estimated at 26.7 per 100,000 people.

The situation in Uganda and Cameroon is reflective of that of the entire continent. ECA’s research shows that African countries perform poorly in road safety management.

“Many of our countries have inadequate institutional arrangements, finance, and data to deal with the carnage on our roads and addressing these issues in their entirety requires strong leadership, which is why the theme of the 2019 UN Road Safety Week; Leadership for Road Safety, is apt,” Songwe said.