Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 15 May 2011





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World Bank initiates:

Decade of Action for Road Safety

In 2009, Sri Lanka reported 33,757 road accidents; a number comparable to Portugal as per International Roads Federation statistics.

The dramatic difference however, is that the number of fatalities in Sri Lanka was almost three times higher than in Portugal, said World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Diarietou Gaye.

The number of fatalities is somehow only the tip of the iceberg. The Sri Lankan health sector provides care to the injured which is estimated to be around 100,000 persons every year with more than 80 percent of them being in the working age.

The dramatic impact on their direct and related families can be imagined. About 1.3 million people are killed on the road each year, 50 million suffer severe injuries which can leave them disabled for life and push their families into extreme poverty, she said. It means that every minute two people are killed and 77 people seriously injured; It means every three minutes a child is killed in a road crash.

It means that over 3 percent of GDP is lost every year because of these road accidents, that's almost $520 billion a year in material and health damage, lost income and other losses.

The World Bank Country Director said that Sri Lanka's partnership approach should be accelerated to put the brakes on road accidents.

This is not something one individual or an organisation can do alone. It will take all of us to act together, now.

Improving road safety

Improving road safety is complex and multi sectoral by essence.

Apart from the design of roads, we need to look at vehicle designs, behavioural aspects, law enforcement, post-crash emergency care and management and so on. We need therefore to involve Ministries of Transport, Highways, Health, Education, law enforcement agencies, Trade and Commerce and Media.

Gaye said that with the Decade of Action for road safety the goal is to save five million lives and prevent 50 million injuries in developing countries for an estimated benefit of at least $3 trillion.

Over 100 countries have committed to this ambitious goal and the foundation has been built. The Decade of Action will help build momentum and raise awareness among decision makers and the general public. It will also help us pool resources together to meet the challenge, and share responsibilities to make a huge impact on saving lives.

The World Bank strives for economic development, poverty reduction, as well as capital and knowledge transfer. Infrastructure development such as building roads and investments in the health sector account for a large portion of our lending portfolio, because they are essential to economic development.

Last month, the Bank's President Robert Zoellick announced that the seven multilateral development banks are supporting the global call for action through the Multilateral Development Banks Road Safety Initiative.

This partnership for action will put in place a shared approach to road safety management and will aim to help the Decade of Action achieve its ambitious goal.

Through partnership, we are committed to sharing practices and knowledge to strengthen road safety management capacity. We will work together on improving infrastructure safety and on road safety performance measurement. We will also work together to raise the resources we need to deliver a road safety transformation in our client countries.

In addition, in Sri Lanka we have supported a capacity assessment through a grant provided by the Global Road Safety Facility. We will support selected investments from the road safety action plan that will have a high impact and we will support these through our road and health projects.

In the emerging context of heightened global concern and sharing of relevant knowledge, Sri Lanka is also presented with a unique opportunity to harness and adapt international best practices to improve its road safety results far more rapidly than high-income countries were able to achieve in the last century.



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