As I grew up in the small town of Homa Bay, along the shores of Lake Victoria, there was a bridge called Arujo. Arujo was actually the name of the river, if my memory serves me right, and at the point where it met the Homa Bay-Rongo road, the bridge was named Arujo Bridge.
Arujo Bridge was very famous, for all the wrong reasons – in fact I would call it notorious! It gained its notoriety from the number of lives it claimed in the name of tragic road accidents. Arujo’s proximity to Homa Bay District Hospital did not seem to help in saving the lives of most of the casualties whenever a vehicle made the deadly plunge into the waters, and this was almost twice a day!
Many men and women spoke in hushed tones about this killer bridge and their talks bordered on the supernatural. I am not in the business of promoting superstitions and I want to leave the supernatural bit to its initiates. Let us engage on the real issues of road carnage in this beloved country.
Official government statistics have proved beyond an iota of doubt that road accidents in Kenya, kill more people than all diseases combined. Granted, ajali haina kinga (accidents are unavoidable) and granted, we take this Swahili proverb for granted! Well at least not until recently when people started giving road accidents some serious thought.
The official website of the Kenya Police lists a total of 78 black spots on various Kenyan roads. These are areas that frequently hit the headlines since hardly a day or two passes without a fatal accident!
What therefore is my duty as a responsible citizen? Many might say they don’t drive, but are driven! You may shrug off the idea and say you don’t care, until you lose a loved one in such accidents. The bottom line, we all have a duty to fulfil, whether you are a driver, passenger, pedestrian or law enforcer!
Medical Services Minister Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o is on record saying that the government plans to establish what I would call highway rescue centers. These facilities according to Nyong’o would be built along the major highways, close to the over 70 black spots. While I applaud this “thought”, I fear that it may just remain trapped in those inverted comas! I fear that this may be clouded by politics as usual or if it takes off, it may be in another several years. In the meantime, superstition or not, Kenyans will continue perishing.
It is not possible to keep count of the fatal and non-fatal road accidents in this country. They are simply too many. The KISS 100 trio of Caro Mutoko, Jalang’o and Larry Asego attempted to do it but I think they lost count somewhere along the way. So what? Yes so what do we do about it? Let us explore the Nyong’o avenue together then we can close this debate for now.
Out of the 78 listed black spots, Coast Province leads with 20 of them. Rift Valley has 12, Nyanza 11 and Central 9. Eastern has 8 black spots, Western 7 and Nairobi has6 of them. North Eastern, just like several other statistics, has the least at 5.
If the government was to adequately address this issue and reduce the number of deaths on the roads, then maybe it should consider putting up at least 78 highway rescue centers across the country. We all know this may not be possible, but at least it can be attempted.
I attempted to do a mental spot check and counted only 17 such facilities already in existence. I counted health facilities, not those near black spots, but those that at least along major roads across the country. Most of them are private and owned by leading church organizations. As a matter of fact, very few of them are near the said black spots. For example, while Western Province has 7 accident prone areas, I only found four “highway” facilities. Out of the four only Friends Hospital, Kaimosi is proximal to a blackspot-the Chavakali-Kakamega-Eldoret section.
Nyanza has six hospitals along major roads. Out of these only Bosongo Medical Centre and the Ahero Sub district Hospital are proximal to these death traps. You could do a personal spot check in an area near you and see for yourself what I am talking about.
The bottom line is, something needs to be done. It should have been done yesterday, not today, if only to reduce the level of deaths on our roads. Quick and adequate medication can save a lot of lives that are otherwise lost on a daily basis. Next time I will write about the people along these highways and those who reside near these black spots. They sure need a lot of education!
The writer is the Assistant Communications Officer at KEMRI/CDC. Views expressed here are personal and not the position of KEMRI/CDC