On 20 August, the National Transport and Safety Authority of Kenya launched a road safety and health programme in partnership with Pioneer Road Safety and the Kenya HIV and AIDS Business Council. Supported by SWHAP and the International Labour Organization, the programme targeted long-distance truck drivers by providing, voluntary HIV counselling and testing, and blood sugar and blood pressure screening at designated stops along the Northern Corridor from Mombasa to Malaba border control. The initiative was complementary to the Checkmate Project (launched last year) which sought to address key challenges related to road safety.
The launch ceremony included a session on the programme rationale for CEOs from leading logistics companies as getting their buy-in and support was essential for a sustainable response. The CEOs’ were encouraged to prioritise the health of their workers as a business strategy. Often the high demands of long-distance truck drivers’ jobs lead them to overlook their health, which negatively impacts their wellbeing with knock-on effects for their firms.
During the 5-week campaign, roadshows were conducted at Maungu, Masimba, Salgaa and Juakali – 1 734 people were screened for blood pressure and body mass index and 505 for HIV. Additionally, 4 200 people were reached with HIV awareness messages through, posters, banners and informal education sessions. The low HIV prevalence (four people tested positive) was attributed to the high level of HIV awareness among the truck drivers and commercial sex workers with correct and consistent use of condoms well-articulated.
However, it was clear that drivers needed more information on non-communicable diseases and the importance of exercise and a healthy diet. Most drivers, reported unhealthy eating habits, with fast food and energy drinks being the main fare.
As a result of the initiative, committees were formed from the heads of the logistics companies to spearhead implementation of arising recommendations. The steering committee also created a platform for sharing best practice, especially from those already implementing road safety initiatives.
The Northern Corridor is the busiest transport route in Kenya as it provides a gateway to the port of Mombassa for landlocked countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan – 46% of road fatalities in the country happen along this route.