‘Safer Schools’ potential highlighted in new film

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Road safety interventions to protect children travelling to and from school have the potential to reduce preventable child injuries and to create community hubs from which to build wider road safety advocacy and engagement, argues a new film produced by the Road Safety Fund.

The film examines in detail one ‘Safe Schools’ case study, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where the NGO Amend, with support from the Road Safety Fund (an initiative led by the FIA Foundation and WHO), is implementing low cost traffic calming and other safety measures at schools identified as being at high risk of road traffic injuries. The project was visited in September by a number of aid donors and policymakers as part of a forum on effective road safety investing.

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. According to the recent Global Burden of Disease 2010 study road fatalities in Eastern sub-Saharan Africa have increased by 62% and from 13th leading cause to 9th between 1990-2010. Road crashes are now 3rd or 4th leading cause of death across the region for young people between the ages of 5-19.

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. It also partners with local road authorities to fund and provide traffic calming, and encourages and assists parents in forming street crossing patrols for their children. Amend sees helping communities to get organised and develop an advocacy voice as a key part of creating the long-term cultural changes that will keep children safer on the roads.

Long neglected by the international community, child 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”. As Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, says: “Road accidents are the biggest killer of young people in the world…it’s a burden on the poorest countries, the poorest families.” WHO’s Director General, Dr Margaret Chan, warns: “We cannot afford to pay the price of road crashes with young lives.”

For the Road Safety Fund, investing in child safety is a priority. The Fund, which is housed within the FIA Foundation, partners with local organisations that have a track record in evidence-based child injury prevention, awareness raising and education. Through grants from FedEx the Road Safety Fund is enabling Safe Kids Worldwide to deliver Safe School Zone demonstration projects in more than ten countries, applying a similar methodology of risk assessment, infrastructure improvement and community engagement and supporting research by the International Road Assessment Programme into star rating infrastructure for schools. Through funding from Allianz the Fund is working with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Sesame Street to develop innovative teaching materials for children on high risk school routes in Costa Rica. The FIA Foundation is also supporting major child motorcycle helmet safety initiatives and campaigns in South East Asia through a multi-year grant to the AIP Foundation, and in South America the NGO Fundacion Gonzalo Rodriguez is delivering award winning child-seat and seat belt initiatives that are improving legislation and equipment quality and ensuring children receive the protection they need while travelling on school buses.