Global health crisis: Road accidents & traffic pollution kill 350‚000 children a year

21 May 2018 - 09:27 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Image: Lucky Nxumalo

The international community is failing to take action on a global health crisis caused by road traffic‚ which kills 350‚000 children and adolescents each year.

This is according to a report titled "Unfinished Journey: The Global Health Response to Children & Road Traffic" is under the auspices of the Child Health Initiative and is being launched on Monday at the World Health Assembly in Geneva‚ Switzerland.

It identifies road traffic as one of the most neglected issues affecting the health and well-being of young people. While the scale of the epidemic is being recognised and documented by United Nations agencies‚ little or no action is taken‚ the report said.

The report is endorsed by Zoleka Mandela‚ whose 13-year-old daughter Zenani was tragically killed in a car accident in 2010

Mandela‚ grand-daughter of Nelson Mandela and Global Ambassador for the Child Health Initiative‚ said about the epidemic: "I know what it is like to suffer as a result of a road traffic injury".

"I lost my daughter to this man-made epidemic. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions. Are we serious about the health and welfare of all our children? Or are we going to continue to neglect them and allow millions to suffer or die? Our leaders need to start taking the health and rights of young people seriously‚ and our action agenda provide a clear path forward."

Saul Billingsley‚ author of the report and executive director of the FIA Foundation - a UK registered charity which supports an international programme of activities promoting road safety - said: “The world has halved child mortality with a rigorous focus on under fives’ health‚ yet as these children survive and grow into adolescence and independence‚ they are abandoned. UN institutions are counting‚ but not countering‚ the avoidable deaths‚ injuries and ill-health that result.

"Many governments take their cue from the inaction of these global health and development leaders. So we need a change of approach‚ and a UN special summit on child and adolescent health can provide the urgency and leadership to save millions of lives between now and 2030.”

According to the report‚ 227‚000 children and adolescents die on the world’s roads every year‚ while 127‚000 children under the age of five are killed by outdoor air pollution each year.

“Road traffic fatalities disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries‚ where 90% of global road deaths occur. Across the world poorer children are more likely than their wealthier counterparts to be victims of road crashes‚ live close to busy roads and be exposed to dirty air‚” the report says.

The report recommends that a UN special summit on child and adolescent health should be held‚ in order to raise visibility‚ build political commitment and deliver action and resources for neglected areas of public health.