UNICEF and the Government of the Maldives increase safe and responsible use of the roads
We are focusing on accident hot spots like the Greater Malé Area, Laamu Atoll and Addu City.
UNICEF and the Government of Maldives increase safe and responsible use of the roads
On Thursday, February 28, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation distributed helmets to approximately 300 people at Maldives National University, signaling the start of a national road safety campaign. These helmets included a shipment of 3,300 contributed by UNICEF to make the roads a safer place for children and their families.
The distribution kicked off a countrywide initiative to increase road safety: over the next few weeks, helmets will be distributed to individuals in accident hot spots, not only including the Greater Malé Area, but also Laamu Atoll and Addu City.
“The traffic in Malé City is really bad these days,” said Ahmed Hussain, Sergeant of the Maldives Police Service. “Helmets are a way to keep people safer.”
Around the world, road traffic deaths are the leading killer of children and young adults. More people die from road accidents than from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases combined – but around the world and in the Maldives, countless people do not wear helmets while riding motorbikes.
In Malé, over 82,000 motorbikes are registered to the tiny city, a situation that causes constant congestion and chaos on the road. According to the Ministry of Health, road traffic accidents have increased by 75 percent between 2012 and 2016. As such, increasing road regulations – and changing driving behaviors – is essential to keep people safe.
To mitigate this situation, all motorbike riders crossing the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge and highway – a massive structure that connects Malé to Hulhumalé – will be required to wear a helmet beginning on March 10, 2019. The helmet distribution prepared people for this new policy, and increased dialogue around its importance.
“There have been so many accidents on the [China-Maldives Friendship] bridge,” said Ema Aboo, who attended the distribution and received a helmet. “Accidents happen every day, and sometimes they are fatal. We all need to be wearing helmets – not just because it will soon be mandatory, but because it keeps us safe.”
Such awareness is especially important among youth, as young motorbike riders are almost twice as likely to be involved in a road accident than those who are above age 25 in the Maldives.
In 2018, UNICEF advocated for increased attention toward safe and responsible use of the roads in the Maldives. We advocated for the safety of motorbike riders, drivers and pedestrians alike, and as a result, the government incorporated this focus into their action plan for the administration’s first 100 days. In support of this commitment, UNICEF contributed 3,300 helmets for the distribution, half of which are reserved for children and young people under the age of 18. In response, the government provided 2,700 helmets of their own, which will also be distributed for free throughout the country.
UNICEF is also advocating for increased road safety in other ways. Over the past few years, accidents have been on the rise – and many of those injured have been children. In December, for example, a 7-year-old girl passed away after being hit by falling construction debris. She wasn’t driving, and she wasn’t refusing to wear a helmet. She was just walking down the street.
“We want to make the road a safer place for everyone, including children, elderly people, and those with disabilities,” said Mohamed El Munir A. Safieldin. “To do that, we need to think about all road accidents, including different irresponsible uses of the road and the violation of safety regulations on the street.”
The helmet distribution is the first step in this process. UNICEF is working with the government to continue expanding awareness and deter road traffic violations, safety violations, and street harassment. We are also working with the Maldives Police Service to strengthen enforcement policies and procedures on the road. By focusing attention on these issues at the highest level, UNICEF is ensuring policymakers keep children at the forefront of their minds.
“I don’t feel safe on the roads, but this helmet could help,” said Aminath Munawwara, a Malé resident who received a helmet.