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Zoleka Mandela calls for a ‘step change’: safe walking for all Africa’s children

21 September 2016

The report, ‘Step Change: An Action Agenda on Safe Walking for Africa’s Children’, shows that while three quarters of children walk to and from school their needs are neglected, with inadequate footpaths or safe crossings and limited efforts to manage vehicle speed. As a result they suffer a severe burden of road traffic injury. According to the Global Burden of Disease more than 85,000 African children and youth are killed or seriously injured on the continent’s roads each year – a top five cause of death for the over-fives in many Africa countries. Zoleka Mandela presented the report and discussed its findings with Ghana’s Minister of Transport, Hon. Fifi Kwetey.

Step Change outlines the life-saving policies and interventions which are urgently required. Prioritising investment for safe walking, through providing footpaths and safe crossing points, and through reducing vehicle speed by road design and traffic calming, is a relatively low-cost but highly effective public health investment, says the report. It is an argument that has recently been boosted by inclusion of the objective of ‘safe and healthy journeys to school for every child as a priority’ in the Habitat III New Urban Agenda.

Launching the report at the Forum on Safe & Healthy School Journeys in Accra on 13th September 2016, Zoleka Mandela, Ambassador for the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility, said, “We are here today to get to grips with a crisis on our continent that has been ignored for too long. Road traffic injury is the single greatest danger our children face each and every day. It is entirely preventable. What we’re asking for really, is quite simple. We’re asking for protection and safety. Safe walking for all our children surely must be a fundamental right. No excuses are acceptable. This must become a priority in policy making here in Ghana and around the world.”

The report has been published by the FIA Foundation and the Amend NGO as part of the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility. Amend is implementing road safety education and infrastructure programmes in Ghana and several other countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Their research has shown that providing footpaths, safe crossings and speed reduction measures in the area of schools alone can reduce injuries by at least 25%. Ayikai Poswayo, Programme Manager of Amend, said: “Ghana’s greatest resource 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.”

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