Saturday, July 11, 2020

WHO urges Botswana to review road safety strategy

The World Health Organization WHO) has motivated Botswana government to revisit her National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, to align it with the latest Global Road Safety targets and other guidelines in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Perhaps the evaluation will indicate whether Botswana is getting value for the investment she makes in road safety,” the message was relayed by The WHO Health Information and Promotion Officer, Moagi Gaborone.

He further expressed hope that the evaluation would also indicate key areas for improvement as Botswana’s statistics remain a cause for concern despite concerted efforts to tackle the problem of safety on the country’s roads in conformity with the global plan and national strategy.

According to the latest WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety, Botswana has a recorded death rate of 20.1 per 100 000 population as against the global death rate of 17.4 per 100 000 population.

This rate though shows that Botswana is performing better in comparison to many African countries.

Gaborone, argued that this was however, no cause for celebration because Africa has the highest death rate at 26.6 per 100 000 population when compared to other regions.

Moreover, it has been established that at least about 5000 lives have been lost in road crashes in the past ten years.

To demonstrate how the figures add up, the WHO official pointed out that an average of 400 lives is lost annually on the roads.

He posited, “These have ranged from 450 in 2016 to 444 in 2017 and 462 in 2018. By end of March this year, 79 lives had already been lost. These cannot be acceptable.”

The statements were made at the launch of the 5thUnited Nations Global Road Safety Week this past week to kick start a host of activities that aim showcase Botswana’s readiness to honor global commitments on road safety.

Maatla Otsogile, President of Society of Road Safety Ambassadors (SORSA), for his part toldThe Sunday Standard in an interview, the event was an opportunity for Botswana to showcase its uniquely inclusive efforts towards saving lives on her roads.

The theme of the event was, “Leadership for Road Safety”.

“It was against the background of the theme, that at global level the UN urged Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to speak up to the national leadership especially Ministers of Transport and of Health as well as Presidents to say,…Road safety has been ignored for far too long,” explained Otsogile.

According to SORSA President, just like the HIV/AIDS epidemic won a hero in the person of former President Festus Mogae, it was high time road safety got the same attention.”…Even more so because the issue of behavior is also as equally problematic.”.

He indicated that there was no doubt that already stakeholders who have shown interest in contributing to initiatives aimed at addressing the situation, are doing the best despite the challenge of inadequate resources.

Thus the idea is to lobby our elders and in particular the leadership to recognize the problem as a national one requiring dedicated financial and human capital.

At the moment the social and economic costs to the country are substantial and unsustainable; the biggest burden is perhaps felt in the health system that carries the bulk of the aftermath of road crashes.

Information passed to The Sunday Standard shows that at least 2850 claims were lodged with the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund in 2018 with figures for 2017 and 2016 showing the same trend, pretty much the same trend as the crash statistics shared by WHO.

Initiatives to tackle road safety in Botswana are presided over by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications under the auspices of the multi-sectoral National Road Safety Committee. This is a high-level statutory structure that coordinates road safety in the country.

In spite of all efforts, road traffic crashes are amongst the main causes of death in the country. This means that families continue to lose loved ones and incur income losses, while the country loses productive and skilled human resources.

The high statistics suggest realizing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.6 remains far from sufficient. The target calls for a 50% reduction in the number of road traffic deaths by 2020, which seems impractical now but a lot can still be done in the remaining months.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.