According to World Health Organisation report about 1.2 million people lose their lives because of road crashes and 50 million are injured annually. The report further indicates that about 5700 people are killed on Malawi’s roads each year. In all the statistics, child pedestrians are among the highest-risk groups for road traffic injury and a child in Africa is twice as likely to die on the road as a child in any other region of the world. For this, Centre for Youth and Children’s Affairs (CEYCA) which is involved in the promotion and protection of rights of children has partnered with Corporate Organisations from across the boarders to ensure that roads are safe for children to easily use them when coming to school as well as when going back to their respective homes.
In an interview with CEYCA’s Executive Director Desmond Mhango, the child rights organisation decided to take the leading role in school area road safety assessment and improvements programme after noting that roads in Malawi do not provide sufficient pavements for children to walk to and from school which result in having more children dying on the roads and streets.
“This programme is conceived in order to contribute towards reduction of road accidents involving children. The programme has just be launched and currently we have resources that will take us to 2019 and we are planning to reach more schools during this period”, said Mhango.
This programme was launched at Kawale 1 primary school in Lilongwe in the presence of CEYCA partners namely AMEND, Puma Energy Foundation and FIA Foundation. CEYCA believe that rights of children are deprived when road accidents occur where children lose their lives and in some instances bodies of children are permanently disabled.
The study conducted by CEYCA showed that children from Kawale school were at high risk of getting hit on the roads and that many of them walk from different residential areas around the school to the extent that the children cross three roads before reaching the school hence choosing to launch the safety road programme at Kawale 1 primary school.
“The reason we chose Kawale is that, children are walking from different directions from residential areas around Kawale and sometimes Chilinde. Mostly they cross three roads to reach the school. In addition, survey that was conducted by CEYCA proved that children from Kawale school are at high risk of getting hit on the roads the reason being the vehicles run fast towards the school area.
Therefore, it was necessary to put barriers to speed. A number of humps that have been put, road signs which were not earlier there have also been mounted, also we have created sufficient pavement areas around the school especially at entry points into the school’, further explained CEYCA’s Executive Director.
Commenting on the issue, representative of one International NGO AMEND Simon Kalolo said that roads in Africa are very dangerous when it comes to road accidents and most vulnerable to be injured are child pedestrians. This is because they are small as such they are less easily seen by drivers and their level of cognitive development is low that means they are less able to judge the speed of a coming vehicle.
“This is why Amend focuses on road safety in Africa to save lives of children. We have partnered with local NGO CEYCA for our NGO implements road safety programmes across Africa and one of the programmes is what we are here for called School Road Safety Assessments and Improvement Programme. What we do is that we assess public primary schools which are at high risk and we put infrastructure intervention, things like road humps, Zebra crossing, Signs. We also provide road safety education to our learners and introduce the subject to them so that they take care of themselves on their way to school and back from school”, highlighted Kalolo.
Welcoming the development, Head Mistress for Kawale 1 primary school Mrs. Doreen Harawa thanked CEYCA and its Partners for launching the programme at the school.
“It is bad news that we are continuing to lose children in road traffic crashes. So far there have been 4 reported accidents at this school which could have been prevented. So, you can see the risk of our leaners when they are coming and going back to school. My message to you students is that roads are very dangerous. You should never play on the roads. Please take seriously what you have learnt from your CEYCA trainers and make full use of the infrastructure that has been provided for you”, said Harawa.
In his remarks, Managing DirectorforPuma Energy MalawiDavies Lanjesi requested drivers before they leave their homes to talk about how they would behave on the roads.
“Road accident is a key risk that we face as we do our business in Malawi. The financial support for the project that has been launched at Kawale Primary School has been funded by Puma Energy Foundation whose headquarters is in Geneva Switsland.
This is a very important contribution from PUMA to reduce road accidents especially for school going children. I would like to request Malawians to take part in this because we are all responsible for the safety of our children, for the safety of pedestrians on the roads”, explained Lanjesi.
Wrapping up, Deputy Director Responsible for Road Safety Annie Kandoje highlighted that the launch would help to reduce road accidents that normally affect school going children.
“Road traffic accidents have been a major challenge claiming lives and injuring millions of people annually. These road traffic accidents have not spared school going children and child pedestrians are amongst the highest risk. In 2016 alone, 223 children aged between one and seventeen years were killed from various road traffic accidents and 90 percent who were killed were pedestrians among which many happened to be school going children. In 2017 between July and September, 156 children have already lost their lives”, pointed out Kandoje. It is evident that children in urban and peri-urban areas are more vulnerable to road accidents than their counterparts in the rural areas. It is also high time that School Curricula emphasize Road Safety lessons to adequately prepare the children.
From 2017 to 2019, CEYCA and Amend will improve pedestrian infrastructure thus footpaths, zebra crossings, speed humps, road signs among others around primary schools. They will also provide road safety education to the schools’ pupils. This work is part of Africa-wide programme which is being carried out in ten countries: Benin, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zambia.
In Malawi, some causative factors of high road accidents incidences include; over speeding, attitude of some Drivers that ignore road signs, un-road worthy vehicles, Over taking at wrong places, and Over loading.
In addition, the increase of road accidents is as a result of ghost flyovers on the roads that most of them are unusable because of poor design. These could have served as safe heavens for children and other pedestrians on busy sections of urban roads.
Furthermore, the withdrawn newly proposed penalties for traffic offences which were withdrawn by the Min of Transport and Public Works was a disappointment. To some, the hefty penalties were giving hope that Drivers would be deterred from breaking the rules. But alas, they were withdrawn unceremoniously without convincing reasons.