“In the past 10 years, the number of registered vehicles have increased enormously in Myanmar”, explained Professor Thit Lwin, Head of Orthopedic Surgery at Yangon General Hospital and Project Manager for the Injury Prevention project at the Ministry of Health.“Road safety is a surging problem in our country, and the second highest cause of death after malaria”,he adds. Despite this gloomy picture, Prof. Lwin considers that now is a good time to take up the challenge. He is inspired by the central theme of the Global Road Safety Partnership Asia Road Safety Seminar, “it’s ‘Time to Act’ in Myanmar”, he asserts.
Because of his daily work as a surgeon in the Yangon General Hospital, Prof. Thit Lwin is a first-hand witness to the increasing number of traffic injuries. “According the World Health Organization (WHO), Myanmar falls second after Thailand in terms of fatalities in South East Asia, with 1638 deaths and 12,358 injuries in 2007,” he explains. The majority of road crashes take place mainly where the ban on motorcycles is not in effect. For Prof. Lwin, the severity of these injuries is also a serious problem.
Yet as he attended the Global Road Safety Partnership’s Annual Asia Seminar along with Roy Ben Eliezer, road safety specialist for South East Asia working with Tag International Development, both men perceived the seminar as an opportunity to help move road safety ahead in Myanmar. They believe current efforts can reinforce road safety initiatives that have kicked things off on the right track.
The Decade of Action, for example, was launched on 11 May last year in a ceremony held under the auspices of the Minister of Health. “Round table discussions were initiated nation wide”, explained Roy Ben Eliezer. “Various deliberations were held with representatives of the WHO and the Myanmar Red Cross in order to explore ways to overcome the burden of road safety in the country” he continued. And already, concrete initiatives to improve the problem have been put in place – barriers have been placed on certain roads, in order to prevent pedestrians from crossing the street in dangerous areas.
With more to achieve, the Partnership’s Asia Seminar undoubtedly will contribute to these efforts, and also continue fueling the motivation of road safety advocates such as Prof. Lwin and Roy Ben Eliezer. “It’s fantastic I can meet all these people, and I can learn about what they are doing”, stated Prof. Lwin. “When I return to Myanmar, I will take back all these experiences, and we will be able to do more for road safety”.