Ghana’s most vulnerable raise demand for safety

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Zoleka Mandela, Child Health Initiative Global Ambassador.
Zoleka Mandela, Child Health Initiative Global Ambassador.
Juliet Adu, Country Manager of Amend Ghana.
Juliet Adu, Country Manager of Amend Ghana.
Avi Silverman, FIA Foundation Deputy Director.
Avi Silverman, FIA Foundation Deputy Director.
The Amend team, Zoleka Mandela, Avi Silverman and local partners.
The Amend team, Zoleka Mandela, Avi Silverman and local partners.
Zoleka with school children from Oblogo.
Zoleka with school children from Oblogo.

Zoleka Mandela, Child Health Initiative Global Ambassador, has launched life-saving infrastructure for children at high risk of road traffic injury in Ghana.

At the Oblogo cluster of schools an hour from Accra children had suffered high levels of road traffic injury. The children were severely exposed to high speed traffic. There had been instances of cars and trucks travelling at speed, crashing into the school and its play areas as there were no barriers to protect the children. Two pupils had been killed and several had also been injured as a result. In one case, a cement truck with brake failure had lost control and ploughed into a primary school classroom.

The Oblogo cluster is typical of many schools in Ghana. There had been no measures in place to slow traffic, no safe crossings for children walking to school, and no barriers to separate children and protect them from the vehicles travelling at high speed.

With support from the FIA Foundation, the Amend NGO had worked with the schools, the local community and municipal authorities first carrying out a road safety assessment and then implementing safe infrastructure around the school area. Along with safe crossings, sidewalks and road humps to slow the traffic, a key measure is a barrier to prevent vehicles crashing into the school yard.

At a ribbon cutting event hosted by Amend and the Child Health Initiative to launch the infrastructure, Zoleka Mandela called for further support from the authorities and development agencies to scale-up such work.

She said: “Here in Ghana, this life-saving project proves that road traffic injury is preventable. Our work, led by the Amend NGO, will reduce injuries and save lives. We want to see every single child in Ghana given a safe journey to school – this is entirely achievable. There’s absolutely no excuse for inaction. This must become a priority for our policy makers. Ghana can help lead the way on our continent in tackling this leading killer of young people. Let’s see scaled-up action urgently.”

It did not take long for the infrastructure to be put in place – just eight weeks of implementation. Zoleka Mandela had originally worked with the Amend team, partners and the community to carry out road safety assessments at the Oblogo schools.

Amend has mounted a sustained engagement campaign with all relevant authorities and partners in Ghana. Over the past four years, and with the Child Health Initiative, Amend has been working with the Ghana Education Service, National Road Safety Authority, Department of Urban Roads, Ministry of Transport, Ghana Police Service and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies. Amend has been advocating to reduce vehicle speeds and provide safe pedestrian infrastructure – footpaths, zebra crossings, speed humps, road signs, and more – campaigning to extend the work around schools in Accra.

Juliet Adu, Country Manager of Amend Ghana said: “In Ghana you are more than likely to see school children running to cross multi-lane roads or walking on roadways because there are inadequate provisions to keep them safe on their journeys to school. That’s why the Child Health Initiative and Amend have partnered to provide this life-saving infrastructure to help improve safety around schools like the Oblogo Cluster of Schools where children have been killed and seriously injured in recent years. We are grateful for the support we continue to receive from our partners to preserve the lives of our future leaders.”

FIA Foundation Deputy Director Avi Silverman participated in the launch. He said: “We spoke to both the government authorities and development agencies in Accra. They have a range of important priorities for young people, ensuring they access education and are healthy into adolescence and beyond. None of this can be achieved without a safe journey to school. It’s clear that combatting road traffic injury must be made a priority. Oblogo had a staggering lack of safety, and sadly it is not alone. It was not difficult to put these life-saving interventions in place and they should be scaled-up and expanded for all the young people of Ghana.”

The road infrastructure has been assessed using the “Star Rating for Schools” methodology. This measures the safety of a child’s journey to school from 1 to 5 stars (5 being the safest) and provides an evidence base from which recommendations to improve road safety can be made. Post- assessment of the infrastructure improvements will be carried out following the launch.