Jamaica makes safe journeys to school commitment
Jamaica is set to step-up work to provide children with a safe and healthy journey to school following a Child Health Initiative Policy Forum in Kingston.
The Forum was convened jointly by the Jamaican Government, its National Road Safety Council and the Child Health Initiative and held on 14 and 15 December in the country’s capital. It involved all the major stakeholders in Jamaica, UNICEF and international partner representatives including from Amend, iRAP, the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.
Jamaica’s double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson (pictured above) gave a keynote speech at the Forum and issued a strong call to action. Supporting the Child Health Initiative’s #EveryLife campaign she said: "Every child has the right to explore the world safely. We must encourage safe walking, cycling, outdoor play, and exercising. We need leaders around the world to take action, urgently. All children should have a safe and healthy journey to school. This must become a priority worldwide. Let’s fight for every life!”
Representing the Jamaican Government, Transport Minister Lester Michael Henry signed up to the #EveryLife Declaration for every child’s right to safe and healthy streets. “Where is the zoning of our schools? We know that far more safety must be provided for our children. This is a major concern for us.
“This is an issue which has to be addressed if we are going to do what needs to be done in developing our nation,” he said.
Dr. Lucien Jones, Vice-Chair of Jamaica’s National Road Safety Council said: “It is vital that we step-up our efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goal agenda on road safety. Our work with the Child Health Initiative and FIA Foundation is at the forefront of this. Every child in Jamaica must have a safe journey to school. This is a right which is non-negotiable. We’re looking forward to a strong collaboration with the Child Health Initiative and its partners to reach this objective. We need action now for every child, for each and every life.”
A key outcome of the Policy Forum was a new collaboration between Jamaican government partners, UNICEF Jamaica, the Amend NGO and iRAP. In a first phase of work to begin in January 2018 two schools will be identified and selected for school area road safety assessments and infrastructure improvements. The project will assess risk for thousands of children on their journey to school and will then implement ‘safe system’ infrastructure solutions to address road traffic injury. In a first for knowledge transfer between different low- and middle-income regions, the Amend NGO is providing technical assistance based on its experience working with iRAP around schools in sub-Saharan Africa.
Jeffrey Witte, Amend Executive Director said: “Compared with our work in Sub-Saharan Africa, we know that Jamaica represents a different context and will present new challenges. However, there is tremendous potential to make rapid progress and to deliver results at scale. Ultimately, what we are talking about is saving children’s lives. It is an urgent priority here and we’re excited to play our part in providing a safe and healthy journey to school for Jamaica’s children.”
Together with Amend, the Child Health Initiative visited schools across Kingston and in the neighbouring Clarendon Parish. Initial scoping was carried out in some of Jamaica’s poorest neighbourhoods – Denham Town, Tivoli Gardens and Trench Town.
Avi Silverman, FIA Foundation Deputy Director said: “Speaking to teachers and pupils in Kingston’s poorest communities, it’s clear that we must urgently address road traffic injury. We tracked the route to school for thousands of children in downtown Kingston and we saw how exposed they are on the roads every day. In many cases all that’s needed is simple and low-cost infrastructure to keep children safe. There’s great potential for a wider national response providing safe journeys to school for every child in Jamaica. With our partners, we hope to make progress towards this objective.”
At the Forum, the Inter-American Development Bank proposed to begin funding a safe journeys to school project with IDB Chief of Operations Adriana La Valley pledging $30,000 in support. Collaboration will also begin with the World Bank’s Jamaica Social Investment Fund programme work which is upgrading infrastructure in Kingston’s poor communities.
The Forum was a follow-up to campaigning by the Child Health Initiative with the Jamaican Prime Minister and global athletics stars carried out during UN Global Road Safety in May 2017.