Road crashes are the leading global cause of death for children and young people above the age of ten. By 2015 road injury is forecast to be the main cause of premature death and disability for children above the age of five in developing countries.
Fast traffic is a daily danger for millions of children in developing countries. Managing speed is vital.
Michelin sponsored this ‘Helmets for Kids’ distribution in Vietnam – the majority of children travel to school on their parent’s motorbikes
In Uruguay the Educar program is raising both parental awareness and product standards for child restraints
Including safety in the school curriculum is just one element of Amend’s holistic community work in Africa
Long neglected by the international community, injury prevention is now becoming recognised as an urgent priority. In its 2011 ‘State of the World’s Children’ report the UN children’s fund, Unicef, urged that “injury prevention in a child’s second decade of life should become a major international public health objective”. In May 2011 the World Health Assembly endorsed a new child injury prevention resolution, warning that “in the absence of urgent action, this problem will hamper attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in developing, low- and middle-income countries where there exists a significant burden of child injuries”.
For the Road Safety Fund, investing in child safety is a priority. The Fund is already partnering with local organisations that have a track record in evidence-based child injury prevention, awareness raising and education.
In Vietnam and Cambodia, for example, the Road Safety Fund is supporting the work of the non-profit Asia Injury Prevention Foundation which promotes motorcycle helmet safety awareness. Its award-winning ‘Helmets for Kids’ program provides helmets to children for whom a motorcycle is the only form of family transport, often working with private sector donors who sponsor and brand the helmets. The scheme has distributed more than 500,000 helmets, backed up with training for teachers and parents, classroom road safety education and monitoring to ensure helmets are used.
"Road traffic crashes have a tremendous impact on the health and well-being of children in Vietnam," says Mirjam Sidik, Executive Director of AIP Foundation. "Through the Helmets for Kids program and training activities for children and parents at the school, we hope to create a safer traffic environment for the children."
In South America, we are working with the Gonzalo Rodriguez Foundation, based in Uruguay, on their ‘Educar’ programme, a holistic campaign to improve the quality of child seats and to encourage use of child restraints and seat belts. The initiative targets lack of awareness of the safety benefits of child restraint systems (around 70% of Uruguayan parents have CRS in their vehicles but don’t use them) and campaigns for improved product quality, legislation and enforcement.
In Ghana and Tanzania the Road Safety Fund is enabling the work of Amend.org, a non-profit which combines school based road safety activism and education and localised road engineering to keep children safe on their school journey. Children are particularly vulnerable as they try to negotiate traffic - Amend’s research in Tanzania has found that more than 90% of the children injured in the capital Dar es Salaam are pedestrians. Amend works with teachers, administrators, and parents at schools where many children have been injured in road traffic to organise an appeal to the relevant government authorities to install speed bumps and provide better police enforcement on roads near the school. The organisation also encourages and assists parents in forming street crossing patrols for their children.
Amend sees helping communities get organised as a key part of creating the long-term cultural changes that will keep children safer on the roads. Musician and activist Moby, a board member of Amend, says: “Traditionally there has been an approach to dealing with public health issues in the developing world that is responding to problems that have already happened, and what’s great about road safety is that it is about preventing problems before they happen. It’s so much easier and so much less expensive”.
In a world designed for adults – and road networks that have typically been designed for cars – effective child protection requires some fundamental policy shifts. The work of the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) in encouraging speed limits safe for the road environment, with an emphasis on slowing traffic around people, is just one example of the philosophical shift towards the ‘Safe System’ approach that the UN Decade of Action’s Global Plan is promoting and the Road Safety Fund is supporting.