We appreciate it that people pray for our health and safety in Africa, although Americans who have not been here may over-estimate the dangers. But what are those dangers? Unfortunately, Africa has an image in the US of being a place of strife and conflict, so you may think that we need prayer for protection against armed rebels or militias. It also has an image of a place where they are chronic and endemic diseases such as malaria, AIDS and even Ebola; so you may pray that we would be protected against illness.
When I was in the US, I was often asked about attacks against Christians. That is one of the themes in the news about Africa, especially from religious broadcasters. But of those three: conflict, disease and attacks against Christians, the most likely to happen to us personally is disease. We are thankful for good health during our first years in Ghana. May the Lord continue that trend!
What you may not know is that the most likely cause of death or disability for us is an automobile accident. Sorry, I know that is very pedestrian. Nothing exotic about it.
The World Health Organization says that nearly 3,400 people die on the world’s roads every day. Tens of millions of people are injured or disabled every year. Over 90% of traffic deaths worldwide occur in low and middle-income countries. A traffic accident is the most common cause of the death of foreigners in Africa. The rate of fatal traffic accidents in Ghana is 13 times higher than in the US. That is actually good for African where the continental rate is 24.1 times that of the US. This high rate is due to speeding and lack of enforcement of traffic regulations. These are exacerbated by the attitude that traffic accidents are random events over which people have no control – that they are a matter of fate.
When we travel by road, we see at least one recent traffic accident per day, often more. That is not counting the overturned or wrecked vehicles from accidents that more than a day old. The newspapers have news of accidents with fatalities several times a week. Two years ago, we even had a fatal accident right in front of our place.
It’s not exotic. It’s not glamorous. It’s probably not something your church will get excited about, but pray for our travels in Africa anyway.