Geneva — Zoleka Mandela, who lost a child in a traffic accident, is calling on motorists to slow down to save lives – to 30 kph, or 20 mph, in urban areas.
Mandela, a granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, is a United Nations Global Ambassador for the Child Health Initiative and pays special attention to road safety. In 2010, her daughter, Zenani, was killed on the way home from a concert during the soccer World Cup.
“I lost my daughter, Zenani Mandela, to a road traffic injury. She was killed on a Johannesburg road, and had just celebrated her 13th birthday. I have never recovered from this and my family has never recovered from this. No family ever does,” Mandela said to journalists covering a news briefing here.
“Today, and every day, 3,000 children and young people are killed or injured on the world's roads. This is a crisis which is man-made, and one that is entirely preventable.”
In support of a UN World Health Organization (WHO) campaign launched Monday, she added: "We want low speeds, we want liveable streets, and communities where we can walk safely, where our children can get to school unharmed. We call for 30 kilometres per hour speed limits. Above 30 is a death sentence.”
WHO's head of safety and mobility, Dr Nhan Tran, said road accidents are the leading cause of death among young people aged between five and 29. “Most people, most cyclists, pedestrians will survive if they're hit by a car travelling at 30 kilometres per hour or 20 miles per hour,” she said. “Beyond that speed limit, the risk of death becomes much higher.”
Also addressing the briefing, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, said that during UN Global Road Safety week, which is currently being observed, the agency was seeking commitments to low-speed measures overall, and specifically to 30 kilometre-per-hour speed limits in urban areas.
UNRSF and WHO work together
Nneka Henry, head of the United Nations Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) , told UN-based journalists that speed contributes to about 30 percent of road deaths in low and middle-income countries. “And especially in Africa it's even more – it's about 50 percent as a contributing factor to road fatalities,” she said.
The fund was established in 2018 to help low- and middle-income countries adopt effective national road safety systems.
The WHO says that death rates from traffic crashes are three times higher in Africa than anywhere else. While road traffic deaths in high-income countries average 8.3 deaths per 100,000 people, the average in Africa is 27.5 deaths per 100,000.
The campaign aims to curb road deaths and injuries drastically once it is fully implemented across the continent by 2030.