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Findings of new WHO study: 70% of deaths on European roads occur in poorer countries and 40% are among pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists

WHO Press release
Copenhagen and Moscow, 19 November 2009

Two out of three road traffic deaths are in low- and middle-income countries, according to a new study from the WHO Regional Office for Europe published today. Further, the first comprehensive assessment of road safety in the WHO European Region finds that, of 120 000 people who die in road traffic crashes every year, almost 50 000 are pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists.

European status report on road safety - coverThe European status report on road safety (1) offers the first thorough analysis of the road safety situation in 49 of 53 European countries, accounting for 99% of the Region’s population. Complementing the Global status report on road safety (2), the study shows that many European countries, especially in the western part of Europe, have applied effective intersectoral measures and reduced the number of lives lost over time. Yet achievements are uneven across the Region.

“Whereas only 26% of the Region’s vehicles are in low- and middle-income countries, their death rate is double that of high-income countries. This situation is even less acceptable, now we have compelling evidence that road traffic injuries can be prevented. Countries need to make a stronger effort to make roads safer for their citizens, and international collaboration can help address this challenge,” says Dr Nata Menabde, Deputy Regional Director, WHO Regional Office for Europe. “Tackling road safety is investing in a healthier and more equitable future. By taking stock of what has already been done, this new publication aims to step up efforts and action in the whole Region.”

Road traffic crashes waste up to 3% of countries’ gross domestic product
The report finds that up to 3% of a country’s gross domestic product is lost every year, through health care costs, premature loss of life and time off work. This is especially related to the fact that many of the victims are young and that 2.4 million non-fatal injuries are a major cause of disability every year. Yet the amount that countries spend on safety is far less than the economic loss incurred by road crashes.

Other highlights of the report include the following.

  • A third of countries do not have effective speed control in urban areas.
  • One in seven countries does not set adequate blood alcohol concentration limits as a measure to reduce drink–driving.
  • There is no law for compulsory rear-seat belts in 10% of countries and under a third of countries report seat-belt wearing rates over 90%.
  • One in seven countries has no law for child car restraints.
  • A quarter of countries do not have any multisectoral strategy to address road traffic injuries.

Pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists are most at risk
The needs of vulnerable road users have been ignored for too long, and this is reflected in the statistic that 40% of victims are pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists. Measures such as building raised crossings, pavements, and cycle lanes; reducing drink–driving and excessive speed; and increasing the use of helmets and child car restraints could save tens of thousands of lives every year. The report finds that only a third of European countries assess their laws as adequate; and even well designed legislation has no effect if it is not properly enforced. For example, only 19% of countries rate their enforcement of speed limits as adequate; for enforcement of drink–driving laws the rating is 34%.

Greater political commitment to addressing the needs of all road users is needed, with well publicized enforcement campaigns to raise people’s perceived certainty of being apprehended and severely punished for violations. Investments in public transport as well as safer roads that encourage walking and cycling are critical to creating the incentive for people to choose healthy transport modes. The report shows that 41% of countries have national policies that promote walking and/or cycling, and 63% for public transport, indicating that this remains an area where more progress could be made.

Sustainable transport policies are key to public health and environment goals
More countries could reap the benefits of investing in sustainable transport and making roads safer. Policies that encourage public transport use, walking and cycling provide multiple health gains: reducing injuries, decreasing respiratory illness, preventing noncommunicable disease through physical activity and mitigating the negative effects of climate change.

European countries can benefit from a unique instrument to integrate road safety with environment and health concerns. The Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP), jointly managed by the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, is a platform to help countries pursue sustainable and healthy transport. THE PEP is one of the main achievements of the European environment and health process, which will be marked by the next ministerial conference on environment and health in Parma, Italy, on 10–12 March 2010.

(1)  European status report on road safety. Copenhagen, WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2009 (, accessed 19 November 2009).
(2)  The Global status report on road safety (Geneva, World Health Organization, 2009 (, accessed 16 November 2009)) was released on 15 June 2009. Both the global and the European reports are funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies.

For more information contact:

Dr Dinesh Sethi
Technical Officer, Violence and Injury Prevention
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Via Francesco Crispi 10, I-00187 Rome, Italy
Tel.: +39 06 4877526
Fax: +39 06 4877599
E-mail: [email protected]    

Ms Cristiana Salvi
Technical Officer, Partnership and Communication
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Via Francesco Crispi 10, I-00187 Rome, Italy
Tel.: +39 06 4877543;. mobile: +39 348 0192305
Fax: +39 06 4877599
E-mail: [email protected]



Security Council extends mandate of European peacekeepers in Bosnia

Security Council18 November 2009 – The United Nations Security Council today extended for another year the European Union stabilization force (EUFOR) entrusted with ensuring continued compliance by all sides in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the ethnic war there.

In a unanimous resolution adopted a day after a UN human rights expert reported that political disputes were still impeding the return of over 117,000 people displaced by the fighting, the 15-member body stressed that “a comprehensive and coordinated return of refugees and displaced persons throughout the region continues to be crucial to lasting peace.”

EUFOR assumed peacekeeping responsibilities in 2004 from a stabilization force led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the resolution welcomed the EU’s increased engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as NATO’s continued engagement.

“The primary responsibility for the further successful implementation of the Peace Agreement lies with the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina themselves,” the Council said, stressing that the continued willingness of the international community and major donors to help politically, militarily and economically in reconstruction efforts depended on the parties’ compliance.

It authorized Member States to take all measures to defend the EUFOR and NATO presence and to assist both organizations in carrying out their missions. It also recognized the right of both EUFOR and the NATO presence to defend themselves from attack or threat of attack.

The Council also underlined the need for the parties’ full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is trying the alleged perpetrators of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s on charges of war crimes, including genocide and crimes against humanity.


UN News Centre

Women central to efforts to deal with climate change, says new UNFPA report

UNFPA logoUNFPA Press Release
18 November 2009


LONDON, 18 November 2009—Women bear the disproportionate burden of climate change, but have so far been largely overlooked in the debate about how to address problems of rising seas, droughts, melting glaciers and extreme weather, concludes The State of World Population 2009, released today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

“Poor women in poor countries are among the hardest hit by climate change, even though they contributed the least to it,” says UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid.  

The poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women. The poor are more likely to depend on agriculture for a living and therefore risk going hungry or losing their livelihoods when droughts strike, rains become unpredictable and hurricanes move with unprecedented force. The poor tend to live in marginal areas, vulnerable to floods, rising seas and storms.

The report draws attention to populations in low-lying coastal areas that are vulnerable to climate change and calls on governments to plan ahead to strengthen risk reduction, preparedness and management of disasters and address the potential displacement of people.

Research cited in the report shows that women are more likely than men to die in natural disasters—including those related to extreme weather—with this gap most pronounced where incomes are low and status differences between men and women are high.

The State of World Population 2009 argues that the international community’s fight against climate change is more likely to be successful if policies, programmes and treaties take into account the needs, rights and potential of women.

The report shows that investments that empower women and girls—particularly education and health—bolster economic development and reduce poverty and have a beneficial impact on climate. Girls with more education, for example, tend to have smaller and healthier families as adults. Women with access to reproductive health services, including family planning, have lower fertility rates that contribute to slower growth in greenhouse-gas emissions in the long run.  

“With the possibility of a climate catastrophe on the horizon, we cannot afford to relegate the world’s 3.4 billion women and girls to the role of victim,” Ms. Obaid says. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to have 3.4 billion agents for change?”

* * *

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

For more information, please contact:
Richard Kollodge, UNFPA, New York, tel. +1 212 297 4992, [email protected];
Omar Gharzeddine, tel. +1 212 297 5028, [email protected]

Ban names veteran British journalist as new spokesperson

Martin Nesirky17 November 2009 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Martin Nesirky, a veteran journalist from the United Kingdom, as his new spokesperson.

Mr. Nesirky is currently with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, where he has served for more than three years as Spokesperson and Head of Press and Public Information.

He also served for more than two decades as an international correspondent and editor for Reuters. He covered a number of issues affecting international peace and security, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, events in the Balkans and nuclear non-proliferation issues.

His tenure with Reuters included a stint as the Moscow Bureau Chief with responsibility for coverage of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and as a senior editor in London handling global political news stories, including the Middle East and Africa. He has been posted in Berlin, The Hague, and Seoul.

Mr. Nesirky succeeds Michele Montas of Haiti who is retiring from the Organization on 30 November. “The Secretary-General is grateful to Ms. Montas for her dedication and service as his Spokesperson since the beginning of his term on 1 January 2007,” read a note issued by Mr. Ban’s office.


UN News Centre

At UN food summit, Ban lays out steps to save billions from hunger

Food Summit in Rome 200916 November 2009 – A three-day United Nations summit on world food security opened in Rome today, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warning that on this day alone more than 17,000 children will die of hunger – one every five seconds, 6 million a year – even as the planet has more than enough food for all.

“Today, more than one billion people are hungry,” he told the assembled leaders, calling for immediate action on long-term remedies, a day after he himself fasted for 24 hours in solidarity with all those billion. “It was not easy. But, for too many people, it is a daily reality.”

The leaders unanimously adopted a declaration pledging renewed commitment to eradicate hunger from the face of the earth sustainably and at the earliest date. They agreed to work to reverse the decline in domestic and international funding for agriculture, promote new investment, and proactively face the challenges of climate change to food security.

Mr. Ban laid out a full, comprehensive spectrum of measures to combat a scourge gravely exacerbated by climate change and population growth that will see two billion more mouths to feed in 2050 – 9.1 billion in all – with an overall need to grow 70 per cent more food.

The steps range from immediate needs such as food aid, safety nets and social protection to the longer-term goals achieved through increased investments in agricultural development, including provision of seeds, water supplies and land to ensure higher productivity, better market access, and fairer trade, above all for smallholder farmers, especially women.

“These smallholder farmers are the heart and soul of food security and poverty reduction,” Mr. Ban declared. “We must resist protectionism and end subsidies that distort markets. This, ladies and gentlemen, lies at the core of food security. Our job is not just to feed the hungry, but to empower the hungry to feed themselves.”

He warned of a chain reaction over the past year that threatens the very foundations of life for millions of people, with rising energy prices driving up food costs and eating away the savings that would otherwise be spent on health care or education.

“It is a vicious cycle that impoverishes not only its immediate victims but all people,” he said. “Millions of families have been pushed into poverty and hunger. Suffering on this scale spills over borders. It sets back development and undercuts social order, as we well know. Over the past year and a half, food insecurity led to political unrest in some 30 countries.”

But it is not enough just to deal with the crisis when it arrives, even though the world responded with the greatest-ever food aid, pledging funding and improved policies at various summits, and even worse potential damage was averted.

“Because the underlying problems persist, we will continue to experience such crises, again and again – unless we act,” Mr. Ban said. “The food crisis of today is a wake-up call for tomorrow.”

He stressed the inter-relationship between the food and global warming crises, pleading for agreement at next month’s climate change summit in Copenhagen on curbing greenhouse gas emissions to keep the temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

The melting of Himalayan glaciers would affect the livelihoods and survival of 300 million people in China and up to 1 billion people throughout Asia, while Africa's small farmers, who produce most of the continent's food and depend mostly on rain, could see harvests drop by 50 per cent by 2020, he warned.

“Today’s event is critical. So is the climate change conference in Copenhagen next month. There can be no food security without climate security,” Mr. Ban declared. “They must produce results – real results for people in real need, results for the one billion people who are hungry today, real results so millions more will not have to suffer when the next shock hits.

“The world is impatient for us to make a difference. I, too, am impatient. And I am committed.”

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf said eliminating hunger require $44 billion of official development assistance (ODA) per year to be invested in infrastructure, technology and modern inputs.

“It is a small amount if we consider the $365 billion of agriculture producer support [subsidies] in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries in 2007, and if we consider the $1,340 billion of military expenditures by the world in the same year,” he added.

UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran told a First Ladies’ summit in Rome yesterday that empowering women, who do much of the agricultural work in the developing world, was vital. “Women are the secret weapon to fight hunger,” she said.

She called on 700 million women who have enough food to contribute 1 euro a week to the 700 million women who are hungry as part of WFP’s “Billion for a Billion” Citizens’ Action Campaign. Launching an online version of the campaign ( on Saturday, she said: “Now you can fill the cup of a hungry child with a simple click of a mouse. If a billion internet users donate a dollar or a euro a week, we can literally transform the live of a billion hungry people across the world.”

At a news conference later in the day, Mr. Ban said he remained positive about Copenhagen, citing much convergence in the areas of adaptation, technology and capacity building. “I am fighting for a real deal in Copenhagen, a deal that paves the way for a binding global climate treaty,” he stressed.

Also today, he visited WFP headquarters to pay tribute to the five colleagues recently killed in Pakistan. He has also held bilateral meetings with a number of leaders, including the Brazilian, Chilean, Egyptian, Italian, Libyan and Tanzanian presidents.


UN News Centre

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