Feature

The Nada Foundation for Safer Egyptian Roads: Saving Lives on the Go

The Nada Foundation for Safer Egyptian Roads: Saving Lives on the Go

Image by Monalyn Gracia/Corbis
Image by Monalyn Gracia/Corbis

By Ola El Soueni

Egypt has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world, resulting in an average of 35-40 deaths per day. With hordes of people commuting back and forth from their vacation destinations every week during the holidays, we hear about many accidents during the summer season. And while the government has acknowledged the issue and begun efforts to improve the infrastructure of roads leading to Alexandria and the North Coast, much remains to be done to improve general road safety in Egypt.

The Nada Foundation for Safer Egyptian Roads is a private initiative launched in reaction to the alarming rise of road related injuries and fatalities in Egypt. The foundation was established in loving memory of Nada, a 19-year-old university student who fell victim to the country’s dangerous roads a few years ago.

Established by Dr. Ahmed Shelbaya a pediatrician and an expert in Public Health, and Nihad Shelbaya, a Public Affairs’ expert, the Nada Foundation is run by a number of public health and public policy specialists, as well as safety engineers. Community Times speaks with co-founder Nihad Shelbaya to discuss the foundation’s work on the ground, the key challenges that they face, and how they hope to make Egypt’s streets safer.

Pins for the Nada Foundation at Cairo Runners' 12th run
Pins for the Nada Foundation at Cairo Runners’ 12th run

Can you give us some statistics regarding road accidents in Egypt and what the main causes for accidents are?
Unfortunately, Egypt, together with a handful of other countries, has one of the highest global fatality rates due to road accidents, with a rate of 42 deaths per 100,000 Egyptians. According to data from the World Health Organization in 2012, it was reported that 14,000 Egyptians are killed on the road every year (an average of 35-40 per day). Multiply that number by 30 and you get the number of those injured and handicapped due to road accidents.

It is worth mentioning that road accidents are the number one killer of Egyptians in the age bracket of 15 to 29 years old. Furthermore, nearly 40 per cent of those killed or injured due to road accidents are pedestrians. These numbers are expected to compound and multiply in the coming years unless something radical is done to change the situation as soon as possible.

The Nada Foundation team with President el-Sisi during an awareness event on road safety
The Nada Foundation team with President el-Sisi during an awareness event on road safety

What are the reasons for this increase?
The main reason behind this increase is the pressure for economic development; as a result of this pressure, more roads are being built without proper safety standards, and urbanization and expansion of cities is done without correct urban planning and safety standards. More importantly, the absence of an effective, empowered and accountable National Lead Agency working on road safety standards means that there are no checks on the current road system. Finally, we cannot overlook the lack of political will and the fact that existing laws are simply not implemented correctly.

Other factors include the rising number unqualified drivers who enter the road system due to an easy entrance exams – or none at all – as well as the lack of efficient sidewalks and road crossings.

According to the World Health Organization in 2012, it was reported that 14,000 Egyptians are killed on the road every year. Text reads: "We will change. I will not exceed the speed limit."
According to the World Health Organization in 2012, it was reported that 14,000 Egyptians are killed on the road every year.
Text reads: “We will change. I will not exceed the speed limit.”

When was the Nada Foundation initiated and what is its main role?
It all began with an initiative in February 2014 to raise the public’s awareness of this very dangerous reality; the Nada Foundation for Safer Egyptian Roads was officially established and registered in August 2014.

The foundation’s objective is to control and eventually eliminate road related injuries and fatalities in Egypt. In order to achieve this objective, the foundation works on two main strategies: raising the standards of safety within the Egyptian road system (not just the roads), and educating road system users in order to reduce the occurrence of accidents. This is achieved by raising awareness about the magnitude of road safety crises in Egypt and the potential for the problem to compound in the near future.

We also try to apply pressure on the government and private sector to raise road system standards, with a focus on establishing an empowered National Lead Agency for road system safety.

Campaign supporters at the Nada Foundation awareness event for road safety Text reads: "Our goal... Egypt free of road accident fatalities"
Campaign supporters at the Nada Foundation awareness event for road safety
Text reads: “Our goal… Egypt free of road accident fatalities”

From your experience on the ground, how can road accidents be prevented?
The Nada Foundation believes that suffering and loss of life as a result of road accidents is preventable; there are learnings and proven interventions that have succeeded in reducing the burden elsewhere. These include different kinds of interventions, including: addressing road/sidewalk design and safety, examining vehicles and their safety standards, raising road user awareness and improving driving behavior, and building an effective, empowered and accountable National Lead Agency working on road safety standards.

It goes without saying that the implementation of existing laws and a licensing maintenance system are crucial to preventing road accidents.

What is the current structure of the Nada Foundation and who are its counterparts?
There are five board members and 18 committed volunteers. We also have a committee of scientific experts in the areas of public health, road safety engineering, public policy and legislation.

We work collaboratively with almost all the entities that are concerned with our cause. There have been discussions/collaborations with Egypt Vehicle Club, The Rotary Club, Cairo Runners, Cairo Scooters, Egyptian Road Safety Organization, University Clubs, Enactus Student Organization and a number of different ministries, including the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Roads and Bridges, Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Population.

Campaign supporter holds a sign that reads: "Don't call until you arrive."
Campaign supporter holds a sign that reads: “Don’t call until you arrive.”

What kind of volunteers do you recruit?
We need support with everything – whether human or financial resources, and that’s why we are always keen to receive volunteers from different specialties. This is not as simple as it sounds, since volunteers need coordination and support – something that needs dedicated staff, which we still can’t afford. Nevertheless, we encourage volunteers to come up with creative ideas and plans for implementation, funding and sustainability and we incubate these ideas and activities if we can.

How do you go about your work?
We hold workshops for our volunteers and we have regular seminars and lectures for different audiences, including young drivers, pedestrians, parents, and policy makers, among others. We host those events at universities, conference centers, and sporting clubs; we communicate through large events, but we also rely on written, visual and audio media. Through these events, we discuss different topics, such as the magnitude of the current crisis and the predicted burden in the coming years, different ways to change user behavior on the current the road system, and policies and strategies to address the crisis; we also share the results of our own research.

Are there other NGOs that work on this issue in Egypt?
Several NGOs exist with high concern for road safety, mostly focusing on pad victim care, education, and communication; however, there is a need to have a common understanding internally with stakeholders who are invested in the cause to clearly frame the issue and discuss what our priorities should be; these priorities should then be implemented strategically and should have measurable results.

Nada Foundation awareness campaign poster reads: "Keep your eyes solely on the road while you're driving"
Nada Foundation awareness campaign poster reads: “Keep your eyes solely on the road while you’re driving”

Who is your target?
Anyone engaged with the road system in one way or another is our target, but we are specifically interested in youth, parents, policy makers (within ministries, local municipalities, governors, etc.), education specialists, and pedestrians. We reach our targets by using visual, audio and written material, as well as social media of course.

What do you think is needed to communicate the right message to youth and actually convince them to take action?
Three points need to be presented to address the issue and send out positive messages. First, we have to acknowledge that by nature, youth will always be high risk takers compared to other age groups. Second, it should be considered that changing negative behavior is one of the most difficult things to do, and third, while conveying knowledge and awareness is essential, it is not sufficient to change behavior. Accordingly, it is important to communicate the dangers of risky behaviors in different ways; however very little change can be expected if rules and laws are not in place, and more importantly, if they are not implemented strictly.

What are your biggest challenges?
We face two major challenges. One of them is raising the public’s awareness of the seriousness and magnitude of the crisis in the midst of many competing issues. The other issue is that, unless an empowered and accountable National Lead Agency for road safety is established, all our efforts and that of other interested civil society and private sector entities will not have a significant impact.

Nada Foundation awareness campaign poster reads: "Your safety on the road isn't just the responsibility of the driver. Don't be passive!"
Nada Foundation awareness campaign poster reads: “Your safety on the road isn’t just the responsibility of the driver. Don’t be passive!”

What do you consider the Nada Foundation’s greatest achievement?
One of our greatest achievements is building our knowledge of road system safety on scientific expertise, which has helped us establish legitimacy. Having a huge number of followers and interested volunteers, especially youth, is another marker of success for us. We have managed to prioritize the issue of road system users on the agenda of different stakeholders, and successfully became a focal point for those interested in reducing the burden of road-related fatalities and injuries.

What is the Foundation’s plan for the future?
We are hoping to extend our presence to all governorates and at least 50% of Egyptian universities, as well as expand our staff and volume of activities with other stakeholders during our second year. We are very encouraged by the strong response we are getting, which means we’ve succeeded in attracting attention to the cause.

For More Information on The Nada Foundation for Safer Egyptian Roads, email your inquiries to [email protected], or follow them on their Facebook page The NADA Foundation for Safer Egyptian Roads.

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  • Essam Ghareeb

    Essam Ghareeb
    4 September 2016

    Egypt’s Roads and Streets
    The Problem:

    Egypt has the highest mortality rates on its streets from road traffic accidents in the world, or one of the highest. It’s easy to compare, using national and international statistics. Our numbers of people died and injured on the roads compared to other countries, developed and developing, is a national scandal and calamity.

    The meaningless loss of life of innocent people and maiming of others is unforgivable. The effects on families of the victims, between sorrow and financial degradation is overwhelming.

    The combination of having a reasonably developed road system and cars, on one side and the lack of laws and overseeing of traffic on the other hand are the main reasons for this high figures.

    The impact on our GDP and easiness of movements for the population is documented and can not be overstated. The hours lost on the roads and streets because of an accident interrupting the traffic is a familiar experience by everyone nearly every day. Also, the huge amounts of money paid for medical treatments and rehabilitation of the victims, including the hard currency paid for medical equipment and medication has an effect on the economy.

    The problem has become so intense, that it even affects the tourists, while their numbers are so small compared to the population. A tourist riding a taxi or bus goes through experiences, which would make them unwilling to come back. After all its a holiday and not a necessity in their lives.

    After two revolutions, when many people killed and injured and everybody suffered for years, this was the most obvious and touchable change expected, never happened. People can not understand why this problem is left unsolved, or even partially sorted, by different governments, including presidents. This situation creates a sense of loss of confidence in the government, detachment from political life, despair, and hopelessness.

    As we are trying to build our country and develop further, improve our people’s standard of living and have social justice, we are concentrating on the economical side of things as a priority by digging new canals, building factories, claiming new agricultural land and building new roads, but we have forgotten to have a real plan to develop the individual. There is a lot of talk and some steps towards developing a good standard of education, but this will , or not, improve the individual’s behaviour in the future, what about now. How can we educate and improve the behaviour of the out of schools and university person ? The street is the biggest and most effective school for teaching and improving the individual’s behaviour. The behaviour of the Egyptian person was intentionally and unintentionally corrupted by Mubarak’s government. If we teach a child in school how to behave with others on the street, that’s good, but when he or she goes out on the street and finds a different story, that will in no doubt undermine what we hoped for. This is the same story with every profession in our country, learning one way and practicing in a different way.

    I can not emphasis enough the effect of the street on people and their behaviour in every aspect of their lives. We can not expect a person driving madly on the road to go and do a good job at his work. The road laws teach discipline, good behaviour, respect to others and respect to the government and country. We will never be able to develop without having the true force of law on our streets.

    Sorting our streets problems would be the most apparent manifestation of improvement in our lives, modernisation of the country and would make people and especially youth more engaged, and less despaired, in our political life.

    How could we do it:

    We need to treat this issue as an emergency national priority, considering the loss of lives, wellbeing of people, financial loss, marginalisation of youth from political life and apathy of voters.

    The president to announce the grave situation to his people, detailing the statistics and negative effects of the situation quo on our life and future. Also announcing the broad lines of his plan.

    A high council of few forward thinking, progressive believers in this issue, to take charge, nominally headed by the president and reporting regularly to the prime-minister, to have the powers to demand certain and well defined actions from different government ministries and agencies. This council can use the following ideas:

    A well concerted and constructed public campaign in all public private and government owned newspapers, all TV channels ( forced without pay due the national urgency) and radio stations highlighting the urgency of the situation, detailing statistics, short interviews with affected families, constructing accidents, showing injuries in the most graphic way possible. This is the first step to make people feel the weight of the problem and the urgency for action, so they could accept changes.

    Stop issuing driving licences until, and that should be in a short period by importing an already successful system, a system is introduced and responsibilities and punishments of failure explained to observing officers. Later, an agency should take over issuing driving licences from the ministry of interior. This can be private and overseen by the government or the long term form of this council.

    Showing educational driving short advertisements on TV to teach people and drivers how to behave on the street, concentrating on the punishments in the law for the wrong behaviour. After all we gave drivers false driving licences without any real testing.

    Any driver breaks certain laws defined as mounting to dangerous driving, will have his or her licence withdrawn and has to pass the real test to acquire a license.

    Stop police check points, as they are obstructing the flow of traffic and more impotently useless. The police should be moving and checking for law breakers.

    The first addition to the streets, and the cheap one, is to mark with white lines and writing and sign the streets appropriately. The public campaign would have explained the lines and markings to the public.

    Removing any occupation from the driving lanes of the streets.

    Providing parking spaces to take away cars occupying the streets. A study of the all cities, gradually introduced, for careful and fair outcome must be arranged to provide locations of where the best place to have a multi-storey car park should be erected. When the location is decided, some apartment blocks and houses have to be demolished and the occupants compensated by the private company owning the car park. The number of jobs this schema would provide, temporary and on the long term, is considerable around the country. This will need further studies to see if a government investment initially needed of not.

    Provide licences for private companies to form with the function to clamp or remove any car parking illegally, with the associated financial penalty. That will make the streets safer, will ease the flow of traffic and protect the investment of the companies owning the parking buildings. More jobs will be created, again for the low income group of the population. This companies at the same time can provide car assistance for broken down cars to maintain income levels for owners, if everyone obeys the law.

    I hope this would provide a starting point for this urgent national project.

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  • Ikhwanii Extincticus

    Most of that article is crap. It’s easy to fix the problem. First get all the un roadworthy vehicles off the road. No excuses get them off the roads. If it can’t pass a UK test then it shouldn’t be on the road. HEAVILY FINE every driver that drives without a seatbelt, using a cell phone, JAIL drivers male and females driving with kids not strapped in car seats, driving with kids over their shoulders and kids on laps and if they do not pay on the spot the car is impounded till they pay up. Block all U Turns on every highway. U turns are death traps! Jail speeders for 7 days. Jail anyone who honks a horn for no good reason for 7 days. Jail the parents of children under 18 driving cars. Make every Egyptian resit a European driving test with European examiners. Crush all the tuk tuks and microbuses and recycle the metal into new lamposts for the highways. Drug and alcohol testing to be carried out randomly on drivers and police by a special body set up to detect drugs and alcohol in the citizens and police. OK start with this if you want a solution to the madness!

    • Minymina

      The problem is that some of these laws are already in place but just aren’t being enforced.

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      • Cora Peters

        Should be easy, and what is good: the system pays itself, let controlers be paid bij the punishments of the people who are not obeying the law. Everybody is going to take care. Take the car of people who are not paying the fine. Come on,Sisi, if there is anybody who can make the roads safer it is you….!

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