More schoolchildren are daily being killed by traffic on the highways of the world's poorest nations than by deadly infectious diseases such as Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, prompting campaigners to call for a UN-backed target to halt the spiralling numbers of traffic fatalities by 2015.
Road accidents claim the lives of 3,500 every day, 3,000 of which are in poor countries.
Watkins said that more lives, of those aged five to 14, were lost on the roads than to "malaria, diarrhoea and HIV/Aids". Unlike these deadly diseases, road traffic injuries were "conspicuous by their absence from the international development agenda". By failing to pay attention to road deaths, he said, the worthy ambitions of UN goals, such as universal primary education, were undermined.
"It doesn't take rocket science to work out that primary school kids should not be crossing six-lane highways to get to school … Likewise setting targets for cutting mortality rates among children aged up to five and then turning a blind eye to road deaths, one of the biggest killers of five to 14-year-olds, is not just irrational, it is ethically indefensible."