An influential report by MPs today has today criticised the Government for failing to honour a financial commitment to support road safety in developing countries - despite the fact that the Prime Minister called it an "urgent priority" just a few months ago.
Road crashes cost developing nations at least £100 billion a year. It is estimated that between 12-70 million people are stuck below the poverty line as a result.
The new House of Commons International Development Select Committee report criticises DfID for reneging on its pledge made at a high-level Ministerial summit in 2009 to give grant support to protect vulnerable road users affected by donor-led road building projects in developing countries.
"DFID claims to place a high priority on road safety, yet it does not directly fund road safety work. It is failing to honour the pledge it made in 2009 to give grant support to the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility of £1.5 million" the report states.
"DFID should review its decision; it should stand by its word and find this funding."
The report highlights that road crashes are forecast to become the leading cause of death for young people over five years old worldwide. Yet while the Government has acknowledged the scale of road casualties in developing countries, Ministers have decided not to release the £1.5 million pledged in 2009 to the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility.
The independent Commission for Global Road Safety, chaired by Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, gave evidence to the Commons International Development Committee highlighting that DfID had failed to provide the promised support for the Facility.
In response to the report, David Ward, Executive Secretary of the Commission said: “It is astonishing that the Government has dropped this commitment to road safety. DfID has actually acknowledged that road traffic injuries, which kill more people than Malaria, must be a priority, yet is failing to provide any serious support to international efforts to tackle this crisis. We commend MPs on the Development Select Committee for calling on Ministers to honour the pledge.”
The UK Government was one of the signatories to the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, which aims to save five million lives and prevent 50 million serious injuries on the world’s roads over the next 10 years.
During the launch of the Decade of Action earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron said  that reducing the death rate in developing countries must be an “urgent priority for the international community”.
“Every six seconds someone is killed or seriously injured on the world’s roads” the Prime Minister said.” We simply cannot go on like this. Addressing this must be an urgent priority for the whole international community… it is in the emerging economies of the world, where ninety per cent of road injuries occur, and more than a million people are killed each year, that the scale of road death is most alarming.”
The International Development Select Committee report said that in reviewing the evidence it had been “struck by the high burden of deaths caused by road traffic accidents in developing countries”. The Committee now intends to carry out a fuller inquiry into DfID’s support for road safety, the report says.
3500 people are killed every day on the world's roads and developing countries account for 3,000 of these deaths. This is forecast to rise to 5700 a day by 2020.
133,000 children of primary or early secondary age are killed on the roads of developing countries each year and another million are seriously injured.
The full report ‘Building infrastructure in developing countries’ is available from the International Development Select Committee is available here