The Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Roads Transport Authority (SLRTA), Dr Sarah Bendu, on Thursday 9 February paid a courtesy call on the WHO Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu. The purpose of Dr Bendu’s visit was to discuss road safety which she described as a “major challenge facing the public”.

Dr Bendu said “road traffic crashes are on the increase, particularly involving commercial motorbikes and requires urgent attention”. According to her, the lack of baseline data on road traffic crashes and its related consequences undermined the Authority’s ability to inform development of policy and strategies.

She said that the Authority had prepared a draft National Policy on Road Traffic Safety which is yet to be validated through a consultative process. Dr Bendu also requested WHO for technical and financial support for the finalization of the policy, the development of the strategic plan on road safety as well as for baseline data to determine the magnitude of the problem of road traffic accidents and the capacity of the health system to respond to post-crash emergencies.

Dr Alemu, assured Dr Bendu of WHO’s commitment and support in promoting road safety in the country. He reiterated that road traffic accidents are a serious public health challenge that requires appropriate policy, strategic directions and a dynamic national leadership.

“The development of a policy and a strategic plan will serve as a foundation for future actions”, Dr Alemu said, while urging the Authority to provide leadership and bring together relevant stakeholders including the private sector through a viable coordination mechanism. He stated that this would maximize efforts to address road traffic issues and foster ownership of a sustainable National Road Safety Programme.

WHO provides support to SLRTA in the areas of advocacy and road user education to promote road safety in the country.

In May 2011, Sierra Leone launched the Global Decade of Action for Road Safety as part of the global effort to promote road safety. The goal of the Decade is to stabilize and reduce the road traffic fatalities around the world by 2020. Plans are underway to launch the decade of action road safety badge as part of advocacy to improve road safety in the country.