Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tragic Traffic

Greetings from New York City, dear readers, where I have recently touched down for my yearly Stateside sojourn.  This year, aside from battling the typical jetlag, I have been laid low by a bout of food poisoning resulting from a suspicious (but - at the time - delicious) Caesar salad.  That said, I will be brief as I recuperate, and simply post another current article from the Tanzania Daily News.

This one resonated with me because the lack of traffic laws and traffic safety measures affect all of us in the Tanzanian community, but most predominately, the kids with whom Toa Nafasi (and other organizations) work.

Driving around Moshi town, I often lament the jeopardy of no traffic lights or street signs and bald reliance on roundabouts; the poor planning of parking lots or lack entirely thereof; the utter absence of sidewalks which leads pedestrians to walk unsafely in the crowded streets; and the streets themselves: a hodge-podge of beat-up cars and daladalas (small public transportation buses), wayward motorcycles and careening 4x4s, bicyclists, wheelbarrows and bajajis (tiny three-wheeled vehicles that basically look like kids' toy cars), all competing for the right of way, all moving at top speed.
However, I am relatively safe inside my vehicle and rarely walk around town anymore (aside from the inconvenience and danger, walking around Moshi REALLY takes its toll on your shoes!); it's those who have no choice on their mode of safari who have to bear the brunt of the African "Wild West" streets.

And of course, those most at risk are children, especially on their way to and from school, ESPECIALLY those with intellectual impairments that make them particularly susceptible to the social dangers of the outside world.
It's nice to see that the Tanzanian Traffic Police are now starting to see the problem and are mobilizing the local communities to address it.  Hopefully, this is not a flash-in-the-pan initiative, but rather a plan that will grow stronger and spread wider.

Tanzania: 30 Schoolchildren Killed, 68 Others Injured in Accidents in Six Months

Road accidents have claimed the lives of 30 schoolchildren in the past six months, injuring 68 others, according to Traffic Police statistics.

Traffic Police Commander Mohammed Mpinga said over the weekend that the number of the killed pupils is part of the total 1,580 deaths caused by road carnage.  Mr. Mpinga noted that for the period between January and June this year there were 5,152 accidents.

He was speaking in Dar es Salaam during an event to mark the end of road safety competition for pupils in the city.  Organized by the Puma Energy Tanzania Limited, the competition involved 10 schools whereby a total of 25 pupils participated.

The winner of the competition was awarded various school items and would travel to Geita Region to participate in activities to mark the National Road Safety Week early next month.

Mr. Mpinga said the Traffic Police, through their current strategy, are focusing on educating more children, old people, and people with disabilities on how to cross the road and observe other road safety measures.

"It is through such education that we can save the lives of our schoolchildren.  As we are starting another six months, we should ensure that there is no death of a pupil due to road accident," he pledged.

He added that the education would be extended to the rural areas after learning that road safety awareness is mainly done in urban areas.  Puma Energy Tanzania General Manager Philippe Corsaletti said, "Road safety is part of our agenda.

We should focus on educating schoolchildren since they are at risk most."  So far, the company has reached 30 schools whereby 38,600 pupils were educated about road safety rules.  "We intend to reach all schools in the country, with support from the local governments and Traffic Police," he said.

Ilala Municipality Vocational Education Officer, Ms. Hellen Peter, said awareness on how to cross the road was still low among the pupils, a situation which contributes to the deaths of the school children in accidents.

"We need to strengthen efforts in providing road safety education to the pupils," she appealed.  She also called on extending such education to the children in rural areas."

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