The charge d'affaires of the British Embassy has disclosed that road traffic accidents in The Gambia account for 100 deaths annually, and lamented the economic losses it causes to countries.
George Sheriff was speaking recently during the inauguration of road traffic sign boards, erected by members of the Staff Association of the National Roads Authority (SANRA).
The Association's initiative, which included painting of Zebra crossings, humps, erection of road signboards etc at critical locations such as schools, markets and hospitals, formed part of its commitment to complementing efforts aimed at enhancing road safety.
The UK diplomat further disclosed that every day more than 3000 people around the world lose their lives due to road crashes. "It's the equivalent of ten jumbo jets crashing. Yet it goes relatively unnoticed. Nine out of ten of these deaths occur in low-middle income countries, which account for less than half of the world's registered vehicles. Half of these deaths are vulnerable road users such as pedestrians," he said.
Sheriff said these tragedies fuel poverty in that they rob communities of human potential and breadwinners, deprive business of skilled labour, put families into massive health related debts, consume hospital resource and hinder local economies. He also pointed out that in many countries, the cost of road erases exceeds the amount received in foreign and taking up as much as two percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). "The annual economic cost is estimated at $65billion in low and middle-income countries. It's a humanitarian crisis on the scale of malaria and tuberculosis. It is also extremely upsetting that the main group of people affected in road traffic accidents are children," he decried.
Sheriff therefore hailed the project, which he said, has two elements. "Firstly to fund crossing points and road safety signs at key intersections where there is risk of accidents. We are at one of these points today. The second and most important aspect of the project is to increase awareness of road safety by conducting awareness raising campaigns with children in schools, drivers and other road users," he explained.
"I am hopeful that their [Association members] work and dedication will save lives and I am proud that the British Embassy is able to partner on such a worthwhile project," he concluded.
The SANRA president, Bakary Manneh, said the project was conceived last year with a fund raising gala dinner. The purpose of the dinner, he said, was to mobilise resources for road safety in the country. "The proceeds from the fund raising have been put into road safety project," he indicated. Manneh disclosed that in the Greater Banjul Area, 90 Zebra crossings have been painted and 40 signboards erected. "30 of the sign boards have been sponsored by SANRA whilst the British Embassy funded the rest," he revealed.
Manneh asserted that the signboards are not for decoration, arguing that it is there to enhance road safety. "We are trying to complement the efforts of the government given that it alone cannot do it all. All the stakeholders should come out and show support to this important crusade," he emphasised.
He thanked the WHO, the Mobile Police Traffic, NRA and other stakeholders that have been working with them since the start of their project.
The WHO representative, Momodou Gassama, thanked SANRA for what he called a commendable project, pointing out that road safety is everybody's concern.
"WHO and NRA cannot do it alone," he emphasised, acknowledging the support of The Gambia Government and the British Embassy.