To continue its robust growth, Bangladesh must take urgent steps to improve road safety, said World Bank Vice President for South Asia Region, Hartwig Schafer as he concluded a two-day visit to the country with Jean Todt, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety.
"Apart from the enormous human toll, poor road safety can undermine a country's growth and development," said Schafer. "But, road accidents are largely preventable, and the time to act is now. The World Bank and the United Nations together stand ready to support Bangladesh to improve road safety."
Hartwig Schafer and Jean Todt attended the 'Road Safety for All' event presided by Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in Dhaka on Tuesday to discuss the road safety crisis that has become a global epidemic comparable to diseases like malaria, tuberculosis or HIV.
The two visiting delegates urged Bangladesh to join the UN and the World Bank's joint initiative for road safety around the globe, and take help from the UN Road Safety Trust Fund that was initiated one year ago.
On Tuesday a memorandum of understanding was also signed between the World Bank and the Accident Research Institute of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology to strengthen research on road accidents to find ways to improve road safety.
At the event Schafer said, globally around 13.5 lakh people die every year in road accidents, and more than one-fourth of these fatalities happen in South Asia. By halving the number of road accidents, this region can add a gross economic benefit of $1.2 trillion.
He also said that road safety in Bangladesh is of particular concern because, in the last two decades, the increase in the road crash fatality rate per capita was three times higher than the average in the South Asia region.
"Road crashes are the fourth leading cause of death of children aged between 5 and 14, and 67 percent of road accident victims are within the 15-49 age group in Bangladesh. The economic and human cost of the untimely deaths and injuries is immense," said Todt.
Despite this, Todt expressed optimism saying that, "We see tremendous opportunity through the commitment that the (Bangladesh) government has shown, and we look forward to working together for better road safety."
"Bangladesh is determined to achieve the sustainable development goal of cutting the number of road accidents by 50 percent within the next decade. We are confident that the goal set by our prime minister will definitely be accomplished with the close cooperation and coordination by all the citizens of Bangladesh," said the finance minister.
During the visit, Schafer and Todt met many senior government officials of Bangladesh including Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal and Road Transportation and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader.