Dhaka, Sept 24 (UNB) – Bangladesh must take urgent steps to improve road safety to continue its robust growth, said World Bank vice president for South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer on Tuesday as he concluded a two-day visit to the country with UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt.
“The road safety situation in Bangladesh is particularly concerning. In the last two decades, increase in the road crash fatality rate per capita was three times higher than the average in the South Asia region,” he said attending ‘Road Safety for All’ event at a city hotel.
He said the road safety crisis has become a global epidemic comparable to diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis or HIV. Globally, about 1.35 million people die every year in road accidents, and more than one-fourth of these fatalities are estimated to happen in South Asia, he added.
“Apart from enormous human toll, poor road safety can undermine a country’s growth and development,” said Schafer. “But, road accidents are largely preventable and the time to act is now. The World Bank and the United Nations together stand ready to support Bangladesh to improve road safety.”
Many countries around the world have reversed the trend through adopting a safe system approach that includes safer roads, safer vehicles, safer behaviour, strong governance, and post-crash healthcare.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, joining the event as the chief guest, said under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is determined to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of cutting 50 percent of the number of road traffic fatalities within the next decade.
“We’re confident that the goal set by our Prime Minister will definitely be accomplished with the close cooperation and coordination by all the citizens of Bangladesh," he said.
Jean Todt said road crashes are the fourth leading cause of death of children aged between 5 and 14, and 67 percent victims are within the 15-49 age group in Bangladesh. The economic and human costs of the untimely deaths and injuries are immense, he said.
“Yet we see tremendous opportunity through the commitment that the government has shown and we look forward to working together for better road safety,” said Todt .
At the event, the World Bank and the UN jointly launched a video competition ‘Road Safety Champions’ soliciting solutions to make Dhaka roads safer. The competition is for the Bangladeshi youth between 18- to 23-years old.