A photo of children walking in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
SARSAI is using tactical changes to protect children in cities with high rates of traffic injuries and deaths. Kyle Laferriere/WRI

The inaugural WRI Ross Prize for Cities goes to SARSAI, a program that makes streets safer for children in Dar es Salaam and other African cities.

The World Resources Institute (WRI), a nonprofit global research organization, awarded its first-ever Ross Prize for Cities yesterday to SARSAI, a program that makes trips to school safer for children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and other African cities. The $250,000 Ross Prize was created “to elevate examples of urban transformation around the world,” according to WRI.

Children in sub-Saharan Africa are more than twice as likely as children in other parts of the world to be injured or die in a road crash. SARSAI, a program of the nonprofit group Amend, identifies high-risk areas for children going to school and uses various inexpensive means to separate children from traffic, such as speed bumps, bollards, and sidewalks.

The program (its name is an acronym for School Area Safety Assessments and Improvements) has served 38,000 children in Dar es Salaam. Since 2012, it has grown from two schools to 50 areas in nine African countries.

a photo of children walking in Dar es Salaam
Thanks to SARSAI’s interventions, costing only about $25,000 per school, children commute more safely in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Kyle Laferriere/WRI)

According to a study carried out with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SARSAI lowered injury rates by 26 percent and traffic speeds by up to 60 percent around school areas in which it worked. That makes it the first peer-reviewed intervention proven to prevent road-traffic injuries in sub-Saharan Africa, according to WRI. At the same time, it results in urban design that is friendlier to pedestrians.

“By designing from the point of view of the child pedestrian, we are designing for the safety and security of all,” said Ayikai Charlotte Poswayo, the director of SARSAI.

a photo of a boy in Tanzania crossing a wide road
A child in sub-Saharan Africa is more than twice as likely to die in a road crash as a child in another part of the world. With just 2 percent of the globe’s vehicles, the region accounts for 16 percent of road deaths. (Kyle Laferriere/WRI)

The four runners-up for the prize were the Eskişehir Urban Development Project, which reinvigorated a river and city in Eskişehir, Turkey; Metrocable, the aerial tram system in Medellín, Colombia; SWaCH Pune Seva Sahakari Sanstha, a member-owned cooperative for waste pickers in Pune, India; and Warwick Junction in Durban, South Africa, a vibrant market area where the nonprofit Asiye eTafuleni helps informal workers collaboratively design improvements and engage with official decision-making.

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