road safety in developing countries
When people help developing countries — they usually support policies that provide food, medicine and machines that will prevent malnourishment. Perhaps all to ease the transition into a stable society. All those efforts certainly benefit people, as 50 million fewer children around the world are malnourished compared to 20 years ago. Yet, the sometimes overlooked policy area of improving road safety in developing countries is also very important.

Lesser Income Countries Are Most Affected

Even if we save the world from malnourishment — it would not help the 1.35 million that fall victim to road accidents, every year. Also, 93% of road fatalities occur in middle or low-income countries, which impedes growth and hurts regions already suffering from other effects of poverty. International agencies around the world are proposing solutions to stop preventable deaths due to traffic accidents. Here are three agencies working to improve road safety in developing countries and thus — save lives with tried and true methods.

3 Agencies Improving Road Safety in Developing Countries

  1. WHO: The World Health Organization within the United Nations is primarily responsible for informing and organizing information about health-related issues, such as road safety in developing countries. In 2017, they released a guidebook for governments called Save LIVES, which outlines ambitious goals, such as reducing accident fatality by 50% by 2020. While the data is not yet available for 2020 — it may have happened, if only because of the coronavirus pandemic. Save LIVES suggests mitigation strategies as well, like lowering and enforcing speed limits. For instance, lowering the speed limit by just 1% holds the potential to reduce fatal crashes by 4%.
  2. Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS): This philanthropic organization, funded by the Bloomberg financial company, uses evidence-based approaches to increase road safety in developing countries. They started in some of the hardest-hit countries in their pilot program. E.g., Cambodia, Mexico and Vietnam. In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, BIGRS focused on reducing drunk driving through a combination of advertisements and increased enforcement as well as improving the existing transit system. As both efforts reduced deaths, Bloomberg has since expanded its efforts to other countries and is currently trying other approaches. For instance, working with manufacturers directly to make airbags and seatbelts standard, across the world.
  3. Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety: While this group does not directly build better roads or encourage legislation — it does organize and compile data from other NGOs. On the website are many articles about the impacts of those nonprofits. For example, ASIRT Kenya encouraged the creation of Nairobi Metropolitan Services in the neighboring country, to make journeys to school easier. Les Ambassadeurs de la Sécurité Routière (ASR) in Tunisia created a summer of road safety to encourage drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts and motorcycle helmets. Through a media campaign, they hoped to reduce road deaths by approximately 40%.

Road Safety and Poverty?

These organizations use many of the same solutions — encouraging people to wear seatbelts, increasing enforcement and decreasing speed limits. All of these efforts are for the same end goals of road safety in developing countries. Reducing traffic deaths has many benefits that people may not initially realize and can directly reduce poverty. The GDP growth of many developing countries could happen faster if they did not have the burden of losing citizens to the roads. An estimate by the WHO states that developing countries miss out on 7–22% of their potential GDP increase, because of such deaths. Countries with higher productivity (measured by GDP) tend to have less poverty because they can participate more in international trade. These countries also tend to produce more resources like food and medicine.

With safe roads both coming from and encouraging a greater GDP, impoverished people can continue their ascent out of poverty as road safety in developing countries and GDP simultaneously improve.

 Michael Straus
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania's People-Centered RoadsTanzania’s rural roads are filled with the hustle and bustle of commuters. Large trucks speed past children walking to school, dust swirls up from the ground as farmers whiz by on motorcycles transporting goods and men and women trek to markets, jobs and services. For residents, these roads serve as essential gateways connecting to social, economic and educational opportunities. Despite the fact that most rural residents do not own cars or motorbikes, Tanzania’s current transport network is targeted primarily for vehicles. The Tanzania Roads to Inclusion and Socioeconomic Opportunities Program (RISE) is working to establish “People-Centered” roads that allow for efficient, safe and inclusive access to roads.

The Danger of Rural Roads

Safe and dependable transport is key to saving lives. Tanzania has one of the highest traffic-related death rates in the world at approximately 33 deaths per 100,000 people. Road accidents can be disastrous for low-income populations; when a member of a rural household is injured in a road accident, the average household income falls drastically. For example, a young Tanzanian boy named Nickson was hit by a car and severely damaged his leg while crossing the Tanzania-Zambia highway on his way home from school. Nickson’s performance in school declined drastically due to the time spent in the hospital and healing at home. Furthermore, Nickson’s mother missed out on farm work to take care of him, placing financial strain on the family. Nickson’s story reveals the devastating impact that unsafe roads can have on rural communities.

A People-Centered Approach

In the past, few resources have been devoted to local roads in order to address rural poverty. About 70 percent of the nation’s population lives in rural areas that experience far deeper levels of poverty. Low productivity and the absence of market integration efforts are the main causes of income disparity between rural and urban communities. However, the Roads to Inclusion and Socio-economic Opportunities Program Project aims to transform Tanzania’s rural transportation system.

The World Bank and the Tanzanian government are working together to create a People-Centered Design, an approach that makes rural roads accessible and safe to everyone. The approach to Tanzania’s People-Centered Roads ensures that vulnerable road users are a central part of the development process; consultants collect information from rural community members about the current needs, uses and safety hazards of their road, and structure interviews in a way that engages women, men, girls and boys alike. This ensures that all stakeholders are heard and accounted for in the technical design of a road. People-Centered Road Safety Audits are utilized to view roads from the perspective of pedestrians, public transport users and cyclists. These inspections guarantee the inclusion of different socio-economic groups in the project’s development. The People-Centered approach was successfully utilized in three rural road projects in the Iringa region in preparation to implement the nationwide RISE project.

Kickstarting the Agricultural Sector

Safe and accessible rural transportation networks can kickstart the agricultural sector and dramatically reduce poverty as they connect rural communities to markets. Tanzania struggles with low productivity in its agricultural sector. Although rich with arable land, many agricultural areas in Tanzania are not accessible throughout the year due to missing or inadequate road links. These infrastructure shortcomings create lofty transportation costs and keep rural areas from reaching their full potential, as an average 35% of total agricultural production is lost post-harvest. With the agricultural industry employing 75% of the nation’s population, improving rural roads is critical to improving market access and socioeconomic opportunities for Tanzania’s rural poor.

Improving Well-Being and Economic Prosperity for Women

Tanzania’s People-Centered Roads are especially focused on increasing safety and income-generating activities for women. Poverty is pervasive among Tanzanian women, with female-headed households more likely to experience poverty than those headed by males. When it comes to road safety, women are particularly vulnerable because most do not have access to motorized transportation. RISE plans to incorporate a gender-balanced approach to road-design that empowers women to participate in their communities’ decision making while protecting them from sexual exploitation and abuse. In addition, 56 percent of rural Tanzanian women work in agriculture. By boosting the agricultural sector’s productivity, RISE will also help rural women increase their incomes.

Safe and accessible rural transportation networks are crucial to reducing poverty, growing the economy and improving road safety in Tanzania. The Tanzania Roads to Inclusion and Socioeconomic Opportunities Program is connecting local communities to national markets and increasing access to health, education and farming inputs. Tanzania’s People-Centered Roads are transforming the lives of rural residents and ensuring that fewer citizens are disadvantaged by road accidents.

Claire Brenner
Photo: Flickr

Roads in Latin America
In 2010, the United Nations declared the Decade of Action for Road Safety, calling upon governments to take the actions necessary to reduce the 1.3 million annual traffic deaths that plague modern society. For Latin America in particular, where 60 percent of roads remain unpaved and the rate of deaths from traffic fatalities stands at twice that of high-income regions, this was and is an incredibly pressing issue. That is why, as the Decade of Action for Road Safety comes to a close in 2020, it is important to reflect on what governments have done to build safer roads in Latin America, and how they can continue to carry the torch in securing the future of the region’s most vulnerable.

Taking Action on the Ground Level

Efforts to improve road safety have traditionally fallen into one of a few categories. Awareness campaigns, such as Salvador, Brazil’s Life Not Traffic program, invest heavily in training drivers on proper road etiquette, as well as lobbying for stricter drunk-driving laws. For Salvador and other Latin American cities, in particular, educating the youth through programs like “child drivers of the future” is also a major priority, as traffic deaths are the leading cause of death for Latin Americans ages 15-29.  So far, the results of these efforts are striking. In just eight years since its initial launch, Life Not Traffic has contributed to a 50 percent drop in traffic fatalities in Salvador.

Structural solutions, on the other hand, focus on pinpointing areas of improvement in regard to material conditions on the road, as well as looking at safer and more efficient ways to control the flow of traffic. The construction of roundabouts to replace traditional four-way intersections, for instance, has led to a 50-70 percent drop in traffic fatalities and a 30-50 percent drop in traffic injuries. Meanwhile, increased investment into speed and red-light cameras is also yielding promising results.

Structural solutions can also bring economic benefits, such as in the case of Tocantins, Brazil, where times of rain have historically inhibited the region’s road network, depriving Tocantins’ residents of access to Brazil’s urban population centers. To combat this issue, the World Bank has funded the construction of more than 700 concrete bridges in cooperation with local authorities, which has both increased employment and the average wage of the region’s agricultural workers. Safer, more reliable roads have also meant a rise in the percentage of children attending school in Tocantins, which has had the added effect of opening up more work opportunities for Tocantins’ female population.

Obstacles to Improvement

The World Bank’s work in Tocantins is a particularly salient example in this case, as it highlights the traditional obstacles to improving Latin America’s road infrastructure, as well as the steps necessary to overcome them. For one, there is the problem of geography. Where conditions in European and North American nations are, for the most part, agreeable to road building, tall mountains, thick jungles, expansive deserts and urban centers hamper Latin America. These, in combination with the region’s low population density, have made road-construction very costly.

However, while geographic conditions certainly make the task of building better roads more difficult, the real crux of the issue lies in the lack of funding that Latin American governments are able to devote to infrastructure. Estimates from the Inter-American Developmental Bank indicate that the region faces an annual infrastructure-spending shortfall of around $100-150 billion, due to regional governments’ issues with fiscal deficits and mounting public debts. As a consequence, programs aimed at both improving and expanding the region’s road networks frequently go underfunded, leading to the need for foreign aid and investment.

Foreign Aid Successes

Indeed, recent years in Latin American have seen an increasing number of successes in road improvements due to foreign aid, though economists estimate that still more aid is necessary before Latin America will be able to bring its infrastructure on par with the rest of the world. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, has provided $26.8 billion in infrastructure-related loans to Latin America since 2005, including financing a major highway in Bolivia that should bring significant economic benefits to the region after its completion in 2021. The United States, for its part, has also recently launched a new initiative to encourage more private U.S. financial investment into Latin America’s roads and other infrastructure.

In addition to building new roads, many new organizations have also taken root in the region with an eye on other means of improving road safety. The Latin NCAP is one such organization, launched under the umbrella of the U.N.’s Decade of Action for Road Safety, which has published over 100 safety assessments for new vehicles since 2010, helping to keep Latin America’s drivers safe before they even step in the car.

While much work remains when it comes to building safer roads in Latin America, it is undeniable that foreign aid has led to major improvements for the region’s inhabitants.

– James Roark
Photo: Pxfuel

Roads for Water Benefits Infrastructure
Infrastructure is the physical and organizational structures necessary for the operation of a society or enterprise. This includes buildings, bridges and roadways. Roadways are a significant factor in ending poverty. Without safe roads, children are unable to go to school, employees cannot get to work safely and supplies like food and water cannot reach remote areas where poverty is most prevalent. The lack of clear infrastructure creates a tremendous economic and social cost. In fact, over 1.1 billion people are without electricity across the globe, which is 16 percent of the world’s population. Additionally, almost 663 million people across the globe lack access to clean water and 2.4 billion people have no sanitation. Even more astounding is that one-third of the world’s population does not have access to all-weather roads. Roads for Water benefits infrastructure by improving road maintenance costs while providing water that people can use.

Roads for Water

Roads for Water is part of a larger association of organizations aiming to promote road water harvesting. The consortium mainly focuses efforts in areas with severe poverty including Africa, the Middle East and parts of South America. Road water harvesting involves using roads as major instruments of water management and sustainability. Further, the roads are integral to transferring water across long distances to reach rural areas and others with no access to safe drinking water. About 20 percent of land surface across the globe is within one kilometer of a road. These are generally the most populous areas with easy access to water sources. Often, roads can alter the ebb and flow of water through corrosion and sedimentation. Harvesting this water and relocating it is better for the environment and for those who require access to potable water sources.

Benefits of Road Water Harvesting

In countries stricken with poverty, people typically forget to maintain infrastructures, such as failing bridges, dilapidated buildings and damaged roadways, or they are low on the list of priorities. In addition, the damage makes it difficult to access water sources. Roads for Water manages water with infrastructure which leads to three ways that Roads for Water benefits infrastructure:

  1. Reduced costs associated with maintaining roadways. Building resilient roadways that are long-lasting with minimal maintenance is beneficial because it is more cost-efficient. The program also invests time and effort into maintaining roads in order to make road water harvesting more sustainable.
  2. Less destruction to landscape and rural farmlands. People build roadways more efficiently and in more convenient locations without disrupting farmlands and vast landscapes. The roads coincide with access to towns and major landmarks in order to make water more accessible for larger groups of people. Harvesting does minimal damage to the landscape; whereas other methods, like natural erosion and sedimentation, are more damaging because they destroy larger areas of ground.
  3. Water that people harvest through the road is more productive and improves consumptive water usage. Road harvesting focuses efforts on gaining water through and under roadways. People build the roads in a manner that allows for easy accessibility for tools, which creates less road damage when strategies are already in place. People can use water for multiple purposes if they have more access to it. This expands from cleaning and drinking to hygiene and consumer products.

Countries that Roads for Water Has Impacted

In Malawi, there is a high potential for harvesting water from road networks. However, the country has not yet fully established these networks due to weather conditions and conflict. The government has fortunately acknowledged the need for this program and has initiated the Integrated Catchment Management as a way to address water resource management issues. With efforts from the government, Malawi has a much higher chance of accomplishing its water harvesting goals across the country.

In addition, Nepal has strict guidelines for who can participate in its road maintenance groups. The District Road Core Network (DRCN) is the group of main rural roads that provide access to Village Development Committees (VDCs), as well as being responsible for the sustainability and maintenance of the country’s District Development Committee (DDC). There is a vast amount of land available for road building and the Road Maintenance Groups (RMGs) are efficient teams that effectively carry out the process and routine maintenance of the DRCN, which includes making sure the roads are all-weather and stay open year-round. With the support of the Nepali government, RMGs can keep up with the roadway systems, making water more accessible to all areas of the country.

How to Help

Finally, agencies such as The Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, World Bank Group and others support Roads for Water. Contributions and fieldwork make up most of the models’ message. Find out more about how to become involved here.

Kaylee Seddio
Photo: Flickr

roads in Zimbabwe

In developing countries like Zimbabwe where more than 67 percent of the population lives in rural areas, adequate roadways are essential for communities in the countryside to have access to education, jobs and health care. However, even those city roads in Zimbabwe that are paved, are filled with potholes while others have totally washed away. Rural areas have largely remained unlinked by asphalt roads, and the Zimbabwean government has historically lacked the necessary funds to launch an infrastructure overhaul that would not only maintain urban roads but also expand the transportation network to rural areas as well.

Road Improvements

However, improvements for roads in Zimbabwe are now underway. Extensive infrastructure developments have begun as of February 2019 to create more adequate highways to facilitate increases in traffic and create a safer environment for drivers. These developments will help ensure the quicker movement of goods and people across the region and are expected to help spur further economic development in the country. Regional connectivity will also improve, as the project has been planned in conjunction with Mozambique and South Africa. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already opened the newly-refurbished Tanganda-Ngundu Highway that connects the eastern part of Zimbabwe to South Africa.

The revamping of these roads is in line with Vision 2030 — a development initiative launched by the Zimbabwean government to upgrade the country to an upper-middle-class economy by 2030. The project has already created a spike in employment due to the rapid infrastructure overhaul construction operations, reflected in the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) minister’s statement calling everyone who wants money to come help build the roads, “Those who are ready to work on the roads come and get your money.”

While the renovation of highways and other essential roads in Zimbabwe is of utmost importance, rural communities are seeing significantly less attention. But that does not mean they are forgotten. In January 2019, the Zimbabwean government expressed interest with local officials of Kanyemba to expand updated roads to the rural province. Kanyemba is a largely underdeveloped province in northern Zimbabwe, and under the new infrastructure developments, the province officially received township status.

Looking Forward

With the expected economic growth after the road infrastructure improvements have been completed, rural areas are likely to develop as well. Once the government has more capital to put into its infrastructure services, it will be able to implement more extensive road network programs to reach beyond its main cities and highways to regions like Kanyemba. Zimbabwe’s future development, once rural roads are improved and/or created, will likely bring adequate jobs, health care and education to the more remote corners of the country. If all these expectations come to light, Zimbabwe has a great chance at realizing its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2030 in accordance with Vision 2030.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr