An Ethiopian Hollocaust
Ever since i saw a girl fighting for her life at Menelink the 2nd Hospital, the thought of car accidents have been scaring the beJesus out of me. The one I actually got involved in Friday evening, leaving me with a sour neck for 3 days and 2 nights, didn’t help the matter neither. It may sound childish, wondering how scared those people who came to actual bodily harm through car accident may have been when hit. But that’s what me and one of the girls (who had to be helped out of the car, due to feeling faint), wondered when we can breath properly. If a bang on the back of your track (albeit a heavy bang), can make you lose your ability to control the faculties for some minutes, making the proud male abesha passengers try to jump out through the tightly shut windows, what would it be like .. feeling your body being crashed underneath cruel tyres?
Not that you need to be in a car-accident to realize just how bad the problem has become. Turn your TV on first thing in the morning. The jubilation or sadness in Sergeant Daniel Tadesse, Public Relations officer of the Addis Ababa Traffic Police, voice when replying to questions put to him by my favorite news anchorman Temsgen Beyene about deaths & injuries registered in the last 24 hours, would tell you how traffic accidents, have become more of a threat to Ethiopians than HIV/AIDS these days.
What is worse, the injustice of it! I’m sure most of us feel we do not deserve the kind of cards life has been dealing us. And we’ve all heard wild stories of freak accidents causing unlikely deaths. But nothing feels more unfair than imagining someone who is going through all that you and I are going through in his struggle for surival having his journey cut because somebody else wasn’t watching where they were going. An Addis Ababa University student who eats at “Caffu”, a father going home to his children, a mother who carries the burden of her household and still is the source of strength to her kids, a son, a daughter, a sister, a brother, a friend.. lying dead in the street because of other people’s bad choices. It’s not been two weeks since i heard the same Sergeant talking about the death of these four street boys. When asked what caused the accident, he said, the driver (who was under the influence) admitted he run over them because he thought they were rocks. Imagine!
“Ethiopian drivers 134 times more deadly than English Drivers”, the title of a paragraph i found on google runs:
“Ethiopia with a population of 73 million and 1.5 cars per 1,000 people has 109,000 cars which are involved in 1,800 fatal crashes per year, or one fatal crash for every 60 cars. The UK with a population of 60.4 million and 434 cars per 1,000 people has 26.2 million cars which are involved in 3,262 fatal crashes per year, or one fatal crash for every 8,031 cars. A car driven by an Ethiopian is 134 times more likely to kill someone than a car driven by an Englishman.
If all Ethiopians had cars, and if they had a life expectancy of 60 years, all Ethiopians would be killed in car accidents in less than 60 years.”
So what is to be done, you may ask. Try not to be mistaken for a rock by a drunk driver, or lock your doors and stay in to avoid being hit by a car?! Not that even that can guarantee your safety. ETV had a report on a car that landed on the roof of a woman’s house a few weeks ago, fortunately nobody got hurt. Or… is there more to it than that?!
Plenty, according to A. Persson of Lund University, Sweden. In a study entitled “Road Traffic accidents in Ethiopia: Magnitude, causes and possible interventions” Persson describes how even if the number of people killed or injured by car crashes are 30 times higher in Ethiopia than in the US., only about 5% (compared to 60% in the States) of accidents are the driver’s fault. Key determinant factors of road traffic accidents are given as: poor road network, absence of knowledge on road traffic safety, mixed traffic flow system, poor legislation and failure of enforcement, poor conditions of vehicles, poor emergency medical services and absscence of traffic accident compulsory insurance law.
Unfortunately, this makes the problem far from being a case of “Feresum yihew, meDaawim yihew”. Even if those petit-bourgeoise governmental bodies who are meant to implement the law were more interested in saving our lives, than making quick-bucks, we all know having more players involved makes the task of solving a puzzle difficult. However, giving up isn’t an option. Especially when your own life is involved. We can create awarness (the way I’m trying to do now), and we can educate those around us. More importantly, we can pray to whoever we believe is in charge upstairs (and doesn’t seem too fond of us, if the faces of the sky could be a pointer) that he/she send someone like Sileshi Demissie to wake Ethiopians up to the truth of what they are doing to one another.
Until then… Cher Ensenbit!