Feature Article of Saturday, 28 April 2012
Columnist: Bako, Murtala Mohammed
By: Murtala Mohammed Bako
Cholera is one of the unpleasant diseases many Ghanaians today, wouldn’t want to come across, yet our surroundings still remains dirty. No one would want to be infected by this dreadful disease that has become a pandemic in this country in 2011.
Following the cholera outbreak with an eagle’s eyes, just to try to figure out something right. Especially to investigate exactly where the pandemic came from, its causes as well as places it is making waves in the country and possibly ways to manage and prevent further outbreaks of cholera in Ghana.
According to the Ghana Health Service, more than 5,000 cases of cholera outbreak have been recorded so far in the various health facilities in the country, with close to 69 deaths already recorded and may be still counting if swift measures are not taken to remedy the situation.
Extra urgent attentions must be must be given to the cholera outbreak by the Government and the various stakeholders in the health sector including non-governmental organizations. (NGO). Though the Government has done immensely well and has so far committed GHC 5,000,000 (million) into the fight and management of the pandemic. One may be sitting right in the cleanest place of the city or country and still may be knocked down by cholera. Because flies and other flying insects may carry the cholera bacterium or diseases from one place to another, thereby spreading the disease anywhere, “All cannot be safe anymore, and then all will be at risk, no matter where you live in the city or even at the cleanest environment.” Not too much attention was given to the “Sodom and Gomorrah” (located at Old Fadama Accra, Ghana’s capital city) by the country’s media divide as we seek explore the causes of cholera in Ghana. “One may wonder why the name Sodom and Gomorrah in the 21 century, yes, but it exists in Ghana”.
On 15 April, 2011, we undertook an exclusive investigate tour of the so much acclaimed BIGGEST SLUM in Ghana “Sodom and Gomorrah”.
The Slum, popularly known as “Sodom and Gomorrah”, is located in the heart of the city of Accra’s central business district, in the busy Market area of “Agbogbloshi”. It is few meters away from the “Abosay Okai Central Mosque”, and not too far from the “International Central Gospel Church (ICGC)”, all houses of The Proclaimed Most High God. As soon as one enters the slum, “Sodom And Gomorrah”, he/she was received and greeted by bad outdoors coupled with choked dug outs believed to be gutters, full of plastic, human and solid wastes of all kinds, just in front wooden structures (kiosk) they use as rooms. In fact there were stagnant water all over the area and tones of rubbish giving out stinking smells with flies all over the area. What remains in my mind as I go through was to report myself to the nearest clinic for checkups as soon as I finished my work. I sucked all day whilst my stomach aches.
Just like me, the people living in the slum need serious medical attention, because “am 100 percent sure they are all ill and they don’t know it yet”. Occupants of Sodom and Gomorrah do not have any good structures to be called rooms, let alone a house or home. They put up tiny wooden structures in form of rooms know as kiosks just to lay down their heads after a hard day’s work. The kiosks ranges from small, medium, large and even wooden two-story structures all made with ply woods.
The area lacks all basic social amenities such as good drinking water, bath house, toilets, rubbish containers, schools and clinics to make life a little easier.
Vulnerable women and children made up of the majority of the residents. Cooking activities all over the area is appalling. Women can be seen cooking various kind of dishes in the fitly surroundings just near a rubbish damp and a toilet. And the delicacies would soon be ready to be sold to the outside innocent people. One may never know where consumed meat is coming from. Young men trying to make a living dressed goats and cows in dirty surroundings. They use burning car tyres to remove the hairs from the animals which according to doctors have serious implication to the health of human beings. Livestock can be seen feeding on tones of rubbish as well as school going age children playing at the same places like no one’s business. Just a stone throw away is a 17 sitter Pan Latrine; in fact the state of the latrine is nothing to write home about. Behind the latrine can be seen big bowls, put behind under each of them to collect the human waste. When it is full, the bowls are brought out and emptied into the Popular Korle-Lagoon. The Korle-Lagoon was once a beautiful and productive lagoon which breads fishes such as tilapia for consumption, but now has turned a big gutter due to negative human activities going on near the lagoon.
There is no single refuse container, proper bath house or well-built toilet in this in the slum. Or is it because it’s a slum? We all need to answer the question.
Innocent children can be seen playing around tons of garbage.
It must be emphasized that it is against the International Human Right to ignore people living in Slums to their faith without doing any concrete efforts to relocate or even built new low-cost house for them.
Sodom and Gomorrah has a population of more than eighty thousand (80,000) people, more than the population of many constituencies in the country Ghana. As the crèche sings, all works and no play, makes jack a dull boy. It was such an amazing spectacle to see that the slum has also got various entertainment centers like bars, nightclubs and even video centers with MultiTV, DSTV and STRONG digital TV receiver dishes can be seen on roofs. It was such a complete community on its own.
Education they say is the key for national development, as there was no single government educational facility in the area. Therefore poor school structures has been put up by private dwellers in the Slum to cater for children whose parent go out to do business, they charge little amounts of moneys for a day’s care.
I believe and if you can help me take a critical look at the recent cholera outbreaks in Accra last year, coupled with the pathetic and unhygienic situations at Sodom and Gomorrah, then it must be the not too talk about home of cholera in Capital city of Accra.
After making all my observations, I can concretely conclude that Sodom and Gomorrah was one of the homes where the cholera outbreak came in Accra “but no one is talking about it”. Investigations also reveals that, when slum dwellers go to the hospital and are diagnosed with cholera, they never tell they live in the slum because everybody knows how Sodom and Gomorrah is, in terms of its unhygienic nature. I therefore call on all well-meaning Ghanaians to go and witness for themselves first hand, how unclean the slum is and the threat it posed to the health of all.
Where is the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, In its bid to make Accra a Millennium City, they must sit up, and first find a lasting solution to the situations at Sodom and Gomorrah before thinking of making Accra like New York or Berlin. As the adage goes “Charity they say begins at home”.
The Government through the Ministry of Health, Public Health Directorate and the Ghana Health Service including the Ministry of Environment Science and technology and other stakeholders must put in more efforts to give a proper plan for the slum by relocating to a more humane area without forceful evictions. The government however, must be also commended for the stands to fight the cholera outbreak in four regions of the country and more also needs be done. According to the UN Habitat and CHF Ghana, they are more than 5.500, 000 (million) Ghanaians living in Slums. And for Ghana to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 7 (MDG Goal 7) by 2015, then Ghana must to improve significantly the living standards of its people especially those living in slums and Ghanaians at large.