Zimbabwe’s High Road Carnage Worrisome

By Edward Makuzva

Zimbabwe has some of the most dangerous roads in the world and the number of road crashes continues to increase, putting the successful attainment of sustainable development goals by 2030 at risk.

Annual road traffic collision-related fatalities are projected to increase significantly if urgent action is not taken by all stakeholders to curb their occurrence.

Speaking at a media conference in Harare last Wednesday, RoadSafe Zimbabwe director, Sam Nyaude said government needs to urgently prioritise road safety and step up the implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety.

Zimbabwe is one of few countries that does not have a national road safety strategy and the number of road crashes has fallen behind many of its peers in the region with respect to road safety progress.

Nyaude added that the annual crash death rate is expected to significantly increase in the next ten years in the absence of concerted action and significantly increased commitment by all stakeholders.

“With the second United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 well underway, time is running out for Zimbabwe to reverse the trend and achieve the goal of halving road traffic crash fatalities and injuries by 2030.

“With increased political and financial commitments from government and collective action from all stakeholders, the country can turn this situation around, guided by the recommendations of the Global Plan,” he added.

The Global Plan gives recommendations for stabilising the rate of road crash fatalities and reducing them by 50% by 2030. It also makes recommendations to governments to strengthen road safety management for the Second Decade of Action, 2021–2030.

The Road Safe Zimbabwe director highlighted the upcoming visit of the UN Special Envoy on Road Safety, Mr Jean Todt to Zimbabwe next week on 6-8 June 2023.

“This visit provides a great opportunity for advocating for road safety and getting the attention of key policymakers and the public in Zimbabwe.”

Nyaude added that Mr Jean Todt’s visit would facilitate high-level engagements with government and road safety stakeholders.

The purpose of Mr Jean Todt’s visit to Zimbabwe is to follow up on the outcomes of the international Meeting on Global Road Safety (New York, 30 June-1 July 2022), discuss road safety progress in Zimbabwe and promote related global & regional efforts, and explore synergies of collaboration.

Currently, Zimbabwe is among the world’s deadliest roads with an estimated 40/100 000 people being killed every year in road carnage.

According to the latest available official statistics by the WHO and IHME, 2500 people died annually however because of the lack of research in the country, the WHO estimates that the true number is almost 3 times higher at 7000 annual deaths and 50 000 suffering serious injuries.

In addition to this, the Zimbabwe Road Safety Performance Review Report showed that road crashes cost the Zimbabwean economy at least US$ 406 million annually, amounting to 3% of the country’s GDP.

The purpose of the Road Safety Performance Review Report for Zimbabwe was to determine progress made in implementing the first United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020.

Speaking at the same occasion, Dr Dennis Mazingi, a medical doctor, surgeon, and researcher, confirmed that injuries – especially road traffic injuries are one of the most common conditions that are treated in our public hospitals.

Dr Mazingi added that road injury is a devastating illness that causes significant physical and psychological effects on our loved ones that may be long-lasting, and they also lead to catastrophic health expenditures for families and the community.

He decried the lack of appropriate research which means accurate statistics are not available for the country, impeding efforts to take appropriate action.

He emphasised that the most important first step is to consolidate existing partnerships and build a coalition of stakeholders to work together on this important problem. “Some of that work has already begun and could benefit from help from government”.

“Post-crash response is one of the crucial 5 pillars for road safety in The Global Plan.

“There are some key improvements that can be made in prehospital care and first aid; the healthcare referral system and treatment of mild injuries; and emergency care for severe injuries in central hospitals.

“Related to that is financial protection and support for road victims that can help facilitate appropriate and timely care. the establishment of a road safety fund is an idea that has been brought up the past and should be discussed again more seriously” said Dr Mazingi.

Action in road crashes and injuries would not only save lives and treat illness but represent a clear opportunity for impact investments that would increase productivity, and potentially generate economic returns”, Dr Mazingi explained.

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