UNDP’s Philippe Lazzarini launched an initiative to save life of hundreds of students via promotion of road safety measures around schools across Lebanon. The following is the letter made by Lazzarini in this regard:

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are gathered today to launch an initiative that will contribute to saving the lives of hundreds of students through the promotion of road safety measures around schools across Lebanon. Protecting our most precious asset, our future, is a just cause that we all share.

The Eastern Mediterranean region is suffering from among the highest rates of road traffic fatalities in the world. According to the World Health Organization’s global status report on road safety, the Eastern Mediterranean region ranked second only to Africa with nearly 20 road fatalities annually per 100,000 population.

In 2015, every week more than 10 people were tragically killed in road accidents. Among them 71 children under the age of 15 and an additional of 475 children were injured. This was not an exceptional year; similar appalling figures were recorded in 2013 and 2014. These children were either passengers in a vehicle involved in a crash, or pedestrians struck down by errant drivers.

While it’s important to keep statistics, we must not allow the numbers to become detached from names and faces. Let us not forget the families that have lost their loved ones. For example, Ali, a 4-year-old boy was killed in Nabatiye while he was on his way to school. Earlier this year, 5-year-old Khaled in Diniye perished after he was hit by a car as he walked to his school. Only a few weeks ago, a school bus crashed in Hrajel causing injuries to many young students. There are countless heartbreaking stories of stolen childhood, lives and broken families.

Most schools in Lebanon do not equip their surroundings and campuses with proper safety mechanisms to prevent accidents. Pedestrian crossings are missing, drop off and pick up procedures for students are random, school buses with international safety standards are not available and appropriate traffic signs are missing. These deficiencies constitute daily threats to the life and health of students.

Today we launch a national campaign for safer schools and better transportation. Our objective is to improve the safety for children who are on their way to and back from school. This will entail making investments to infrastructure around schools. We will build crosswalks and sidewalks, install traffic signals, and post speed limits.

This will however not be enough if driving behavior do not change significantly. I am constantly struck by the way drivers seem to believe road belongs to them; totally disrespecting pedestrian, and struck by their multi-tasking including using their phones while driving. These are only few examples of how attitudes are as dangerous than the lack of safety measures.

So, as part of the campaign, we will also work to raise awareness about safe driving, not only among students, but also among their parents, teachers, and local drivers in the community. And most importantly, we need to mobilize and garner the support of local municipal authorities in enforcing the necessary safety measures.

On October 1st, 2016, we launched the “Ensa Joura” campaign with our media partner MTV Lebanon. Throughout the campaign, UNDP Live Lebanon has been repairing more than 1500 potholes all over Lebanon in the hope of reducing the number of auto accidents. Today, we launch the “Hakki Oussal” campaign – which translated means “I have the right to reach my destination” with measures that specifically target the wellbeing of Lebanese school children.

Improving global road safety is a shared responsibility – It requires joint efforts on different levels, public policy, education, public initiatives, and the actions of citizens in preserving their own lives and the lives of their children.

I urge you to commit to our common cause today for of all the children in Lebanon who declare “Hakki Oussal” and who represent our future.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the actors and supporters of this campaign. We are looking forward to continue our collaboration towards this great cause.

Thank you.

Source: National News Agency

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