Aged just seven, she suffered severe head injuries when a motorcycle hit her as she crossed the busy road outside school. 

A month later she left hospital but may need further surgery. She does not know when she can return to class.

“I miss school and I miss my friends,” she says.

She is one of many children injured or killed every year on roads in Iraq, a country with one of the world’s highest road traffic injury rates.

The number of vehicles has risen sharply as the economy has begun to recover from years of conflict. New roads have enabled trade between communities to flourish. But many still lack basic markings or safe pedestrian crossings, even at busy intersections. 

Iraqi health authorities say more than 350 children died or were seriously injured in road traffic incidents in the southern province of Basra alone in 2014.

A road safety volunteer visits a family

Global problem

Around the world more than 500 children die every day in traffic incidents, 95% of them in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization. This year, the UN Global Road Safety Week (May 4-10) is focusing on children to highlight the scale of the problem.

To help reduce road-traffic incidents in southern Iraq, Shell – operator of the Majnoon oil field – is working with the AMAR International Charitable Foundation to train school teachers and local volunteers to raise awareness among parents and children. 

Aqeela Jabr is one of 64 trained female road safety volunteers who visit more than 3,000 families a month. She decided to act because she was horrified by the number of children killed and injured in her neighbourhood.

“I am happy to see the safety commitments made by families I have visited,” says Aqeela. “I am proud to be helping families keep their children safe, but it will take time before we see a reduction in accidents.”

After training from road safety experts, around 140 teachers had given safety lessons to more than 10,000 primary school children in the area by early 2015.

Children waiting to cross the road in Iraq

Aqeel Mahdi, a primary school teacher, is another volunteer. “The teachers at our school also help and guide the children in crossing the roads at the end of school day, so they practise what they learned,” she says. 

Shell is also working with local education, government and police authorities to set up School Safety Zones around primary schools on high-risk roads. Speed bumps and warning signs should slow drivers down, while new footpaths, fences and pedestrian crossings should make children safer. 

An educational video aimed at adults about the importance of wearing seat belts will also be shown in all hospitals and health-care centres in Basra from May 2015.

 “Shell is helping us to spread road safety education in our communities and reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads,” says Colonel Riadh Al Edani from the Basra police department.

Safeguarding students around the world

Businesses, governments and development agencies work together in the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) to prevent road deaths and injuries around the world. 

In 2013, the GRSP launched its “Safe to School – Safe to Home” programme in northern Vietnam and China, seeking to protect children by teaching road safety and encouraging them to use seat belts and helmets when travelling. It also seeks to slow traffic around schools. The programme has been implemented in more than 15 countries around the world.

Shell, a member of the GRSP, is replicating the scheme close to its operations in southern Vietnam and Nigeria.

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