On the 26th of September 2003 my best friend Jonathan was killed in a car crash in Nairobi, Kenya in East Africa. Jonathan was only 19 years old and had just joined University three weeks prior to the road crash to pursue a degree in information technology. A speeding drunk driver rammed into the vehicle Jonathan was in; causing the car to spin out of control severally. Jonathan along with another friend, were killed on the spot. On the morning of the 27th his parents received that tragic phone call, the news that their only 19 year old son was killed in a car crash and was lying in a morgue. At his funeral service Jonathan's father bravely spoke to the hundreds of people gathered and said, "Weep not for our son, but instead, pray for the young girl lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life". - I was that young girl who at the tender age of 20. While others may have woken up on that Saturday morning looking forward to the weekend; I was lying unconscious in the intensive care unit fighting for my life. I woke up four days later to the devastating news that I had lost a dear friend close to me. After a daunting nine months in hospital I was discharged a quadriplegic -- paralyzed from the shoulders down. It has been eight years now, but I can still vividly remember like it was yesterday when the doctors told me that I may never walk or use my hands again, - from a professional swimmer that I used to be before the crash to a wheelchair user.
I founded the Chariots of Destiny Organization in Kenya with the aim of advocating to reduce the increasing number of deaths and injury taking place on our roads daily. Since that tragic day when my life was changed as a result of this epidemic on our roads, we have lost some 10 million people around the world and millions more both young and old have been injured and disabled by a cause that can be prevented and avoided!
Globally hundreds of individuals, NGOs, road crash victims, families have embraced the concept of a Decade of Action for road safety. Together we represent the millions of doctors, lawyers, and engineers just to name but a few whose lives have been cut short and who otherwise would be the future of tomorrow. Road traffic injuries are placing an enormous strain on already overstretched health systems in developing countries. In Kenya for example, road traffic injury patients represent around 45-60% of all admissions to surgical wards. Road crashes are also a key determinant to whether a household is pushed into poverty. Most victims usually contribute to their household’s earnings and death and injury usually leads to loss of income tipping many households into poverty. Today I, just like thousands of other road crash victims across the world continue to bear the tremendous costs brought about by road crashes. From the continuous medical expenses, rehabilitation, physiotherapy and daily upkeep all reflecting the sheer impact of a tragedy that can be avoided. We have seen young bright students drop out of school due to lack of resources to maintain education after disability. My own mother had to leave her gainful employment to provide round-the-clock care for me and to cut down the enormous costs of employing a full-time caregiver. Compensation by insurance companies usually takes forever and in most cases it is close to impossible. It has been eight years since my injury and today I am still trying to get compensated and finally offset enormous medical bills that have accrued over the years. These are just but a few of the realities faced by most road crash victims in developing countries.
We are pleased that governments, funding institutions and the global community have recognized the overwhelming economic cost of road crashes and hopefully in the coming months we will see action and implementation as we focus to address traffic injuries as a serious public health issue. As some of the world's largest sources of finance for development, the multilateral development banks’ commitment to promote Global Road Safety is immensely important. I believe that investing in road safety will not only enhance international trade, international road transport but most importantly save millions of lives from death, injury and disability. It is crucial to include a road safety component in road sector investment and to establish a link between creating good roads and safe roads.
When I was growing up as child, I had many dreams which have been shattered by this epidemic. Just like my best friend Jonathan, many young people may never graduate through University College due to death or injury brought about by a road crash. Let's take action for the sake of mothers who will never see their children grow up, for the children whose parents have been killed or maimed in a road crash. We have constantly discussed statistics; we have remembered those we have lost and those who have been injured; we have provided solutions and shown that by enforcing and implementing laws and regulations, including road safety in poverty reduction documents, enhancing safe road design and construction and ensuring and mobilizing sufficient resources for road safety project implementation - we can save lives.
Together we can be the voice of the voiceless and ensure that we do not lose any more people on our roads; that we will not continue to lose but build our economy; that young individuals will return home safely and whose future will not be cut short by the menace on our roads.