On two separate occasions in the Kurdistan Region, children were struck and killed by drivers who fled the scene. We may never know the identity of the hit and run drivers. However, there are many things we can do to ensure the children of the Rashkeen neighborhood in Erbil are safe to traverse their home in the future.
I drive the stretch of Sarbasty road that connects the 100-meter to the 120 daily. Its many potholes are the only traffic control measure. I am often confronted with a car about to hit me head-on while they swerve to avoid having to slow down.
Recently, my attention was caught by an injured donkey waiting by the roadside. During my attempt to assess the animals’ injuries, I was approached by three boys who were concerned about my presence on their property. After a brief explanation of my intent, with the help of a translator, the boys agreed to allow me to render aid to the injured creature.
Several minutes later, two girls waved us over, insisting we enter their home to stay cool while we awaited the arrival of the veterinary doctor. We were urged to sit with the family and offered water and tea. We struggled with the language barrier, attempting polite conversation in a mixture of Kurdish, Arabic, and English.
Sitting at the far wall of a cinder-block shack, a father of 10 went on to explain how the donkey was injured. She was struck by a speeding vehicle which left her with a badly broken and, later, infected hind leg for which the family does not possess the means to treat.
We discussed the conditions of the road that intersects the neighborhood, lamenting the speed at which the drivers traveled. I was informed that the speed bumps previously in place had been stripped from the pavement by a bulldozer. Commuters now swerve around the tatters of the remaining speed bumps.
The patriarch threw his hands up in exasperation, telling my husband and me of the two children struck last year by vehicles. The local authorities were contacted, but due to a lack of cameras and witnesses, the perpetrators were never found. To date, nothing has been done to improve the safety of this busy thoroughfare.
We cannot resurrect the child victims. What we can do is work to ensure the safety of the children still in peril. First and foremost, precautionary measures should be implemented.
New concrete speed bumps spanning the entire width of the street must be placed at regular intervals on the section of Sarbasty that runs through Rashkeen. Then, raised walking paths or sidewalks can be installed on both sides of the road to protect those who need to walk in this area. Additionally, the painting of several pedestrian crosswalks, or better yet, the installation of a pedestrian overpass would allow people to safely cross the busy thoroughfare without impeding the flow of traffic.
Once the road is made functional and safe for the residents of Rashkeen and commuters alike, we can focus our energy on holding drivers accountable for their actions. This can be done by installing cameras and radars along this road. When people know they are being watched, they often behave the way they wish to be seen.
I do not know what it would cost the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to implement these safety measures, but I do know the cost of doing nothing: the lives of innocent children, the forgotten residents of Kurdistan.
Oriana Samuelsen is an Operations Coordinator for a private hospital in Erbil. With a background working in the public safety sector as a firefighter in the United States, she brings her knowledge of pre-hospital emergency care to Kurdistan.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan 24.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany