Traffic Accidents Outnumber Mines in Injuries and Deaths

Mine accidents are not the primary cause for new cases of disability in Cambodia, according to 2009 Disability Action Council annual report.

“The situation has now changed and landmine is not the first major cause of disability anymore…however, the disability rate today remains high because of traffic accidents, work accidents, malnutrition, diseases, age and others,” according to the report, which was released on July 8 and also included a report on the group’s activities during the year.

But Thong Vinal, DAC executive director, said yesterday that the statement was made not based on numerical data but through analysis of reports from NGOs specializing in injuries that can cause disabilities. DAC is advisory group that works with the government and NGOs to promote disability issues.

“In general, everyone said that injuries from landmines has reduced and injuries from traffic accidents is still high but I don’t have the exact report to compare yet,” he said.

According to the Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System 2008 annual report, 224 people were injured and 47 deaths compared to the same year’s Cambodia Road Crash and Victim Information System annual report, which recorded 7,226 severe injuries and 1,638 deaths.

Socheata Sann, Handicap International Belgium’s road safety program manager, said yesterday that since the traffic data system was started in 2004, the number of deaths have increased every year.

She said the increase comes from combination of a growing population, which has led to more vehicles on the roads and more infrastructure, meaning there are more opportunities for people to drive more, in the country.

“At the same time, the majority of the deaths are due to human error,” she said noting that in 2009, 50 percent of fatalities are caused by speeding and an additional 15 percent of fatalities occur while driving drunk.

Ms Sann said roughly $1 million is spent by the government and other shareholders annually on preventing accidents and promoting road safety.

Ms Sann added the government is showing a commitment to road safety through providing education and enforcement of road rules, especially helmet use.

“For example, only 7 percent of drivers were helmets in 2004 and it is now up to 80 percent in 2010,” Ms Sann said but she adds future commitment to the issue is still needed to improve road safety.

Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodia Mine Action Center, said yesterday he estimates that the government spent around $30 million on mine-related activities last year.

“We have to look at different results [in addition to the number of victims],” he said, adding that clearing mines allows for additional development in such fields such as infrastructure or agriculture.

“CMAC alone, destroyed 20,000 [unexploded ordnances] alone and responded to 12,000 emergency calls,” Mr Ratana said. “It is also preventive action.”

The 2008 national census, the first to include questions about disabilities, found that 1.4 of the Cambodian population was disabled. The census reported that 62.3 percent of people with disabilities could read or write in any language, compared to 78.4 of the general public. Less than 40 percent of people with disabilities had completed primary school while 14 percent never attended at all compared to about 50 percent of the general public attended at least primary school, the census also found.


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