By Tewodros Besha
ADDIS ABABA: January 17 (EI) – The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA) has called on Ethiopian authorities to create positive nexus between the country’s ambitious investments on road infrastructure with appropriate road safety measures in a bid to avert increasing trend of traffic accident-induced fatalities.
The urgent call was made by Stephen Karingi, Head of Private Sector Development and Finance Division at the UN-ECA, who stressed that appropriate road safety measures should be streamlined with Ethiopia’s ever-expanding road coverage and vehicle ownership in a bid to effectively respond to growing traffic accidents in the East African country.
“A combination of improved road coverage, ride quality, and vehicle ownership may have the unintended consequence of increased number of crashes, leading to more injuries and deaths on Ethiopia’s roads, especially if growth in the road network and vehicle ownership is not accompanied by appropriate road safety measures,” Karingi told a high-level gathering that reviewed Ethiopia’s road safety performance.
Recent figures from the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) show that the East African country’s road network coverage has increased from 26,550-km in 1997 to 126,773-km in 2018, while the number of vehicles in the country has also augmented from 244,257 in 2007 to 708,416 in 2016 that accounted an increase of 190 percent over the stated period.
According to the UN-ECA, road safety data is also another major challenge in Ethiopia – Africa’s second populous nation with an estimated 107 million total population, in which reports from the Ethiopian government concerning the state of road crash fatalities in the country highly contradicts with that of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).
While recent figures from ERA show road crash fatalities in Ethiopia to have increased from 2,517 in 2006 to 4,352 in 2016, the WHO, however, estimated the number of fatalities from road crash to reach as far as 27,326 in 2016, which is 6 times higher than the reported figure, according to the ECA.
The disparity “underscores the enormity of road safety data challenge in the country,” the UN-ECA’s official told the high-level joint workshop that was jointly organized this week by the UN-ECA and the Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport (MoT) to review Ethiopia’s road safety performance.
The UN-ECA’s call also came as a joint Ethiopian government and United Nation survey that assessed Ethiopia’s overall road safety condition revealed that about 13 people die each day on average from road traffic accidents in Ethiopia – a country with the lowest rate of car-ownership even at African standard with just 708,416 vehicles in 2016, while the country’s total population estimated around 105 million.
The survey, among other things, attributed the majority of deadly road traffic accidents in Ethiopia due to lack of awareness among drivers and pedestrians, poor technical inspections of vehicles, the use of older vehicles, fraud driving license as well as poor road quality.
Ethiopia’s State Minister of Transport, Mulu Gebre-Egziabher, addressing a high-level gathering that validated the survey also reiterated the Ethiopian government’s resolve to reduce road traffic-induced human deaths, injuries and property damages.
According to the state minister, the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport is presently undertaking a nationwide awareness-raising campaign that put into consideration the seriousness of the problem related to road safety.
Ethiopia has been recently witnessing an increasing rate of deadly traffic accidents often with blames attributed to the country’s poor road infrastructure, flawed driving license issuance procedures as well as negligent enforcement of road safety measures.
The UN-ECA, which is presently finalizing a report on road safety performance review of Ethiopia in partnership with the Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, had previously undertaken similar road safety reviews in Cameroon and Uganda, while the review of the road safety performance of Zimbabwe is also said to be underway.
Recommendations obtained from the two UN agencies’ joint national road safety performance review of African countries’ are expected to feed into the respective countries’ future national road safety strategy, it was noted.
Photo (by Addisfortune.com) shows a car accident in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.