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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Columnist: Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

Fire victims in Accra and Kumasi; A timely intervention to get them back to business

“A curve on the road is never an end to your journey. You need to manage to negotiate the curve to be able to move on warding off all obstacles”. So says the adage by yours truly.

The picture painted connotes the situation in the markets in Accra and Kumasi where its distressed occupants are required to move on in life after going through trying moments in recent times: Now read on.

In fact a large number of victims of the recent fires in Accra and Kumasi markets felt that their future were shattered when they lost all their wares to raging fires. They wailed openly and thought they had reached the end of the road with life. They were torn between believing in and rejecting various reasons why their stalls went up in flames.

A few months down the line more than 7,000 of the affected market mammies and daddies are hopeful they can stand on their feet once again and afford a smile owing to an intervention by the government to meet them halfway.

The government has doled out five million cedis in emergency support to the affected people through the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection. The total amount has been channeled through the Stambic bank which has devised a means of paying the victims through their bank accounts.

The bank has also written off huge amount money owed by some customers of the bank who were affected by the fires. The beneficiaries of this magnanimity showed up in the open to testify to the kindness of the bank which they say deserves more customers than they have now.

At a ceremony held at the Children’s Park Accra to commence the disbursement of the cash to the victims, it came to light that While GHC3m was earmarked for reconstruction activities in the markets GHC2 million is meant for disbursement to the affected persons.

Although Nana Oye Lithur admitted that the amount to be given to each of the beneficiaries is not big enough she said ‘it is a token sum made available to them by the government’.

She appealed to them to make good use of it with the hope and belief that it would bear fruits to turn their businesses around. She commended the President John Dramani Mahama for fulfilling the promise of providing the affected market mammies with some relief.

Representatives of the National Chief Imam and the general secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana on their part said though the donation from the government might be small in the eyes of men God can transform it into a seed capital capable of widening the scope of their businesses. They advised the victims to accept the presents with open arms and clear hearts.

They prayed for protection of the markets against fires in future and advised the traders to follow the tips and lessons on fire safety being provided by the Ghana Fire Service in the markets to avoid fire outbreaks in future. There should be no more illegal electrical connections and no overloading of circuits and the illegal use of gas cookers in the markets. They said

This is said to be the first time donation has been made to victims of fires in Ghana where many fire outbreaks had been recorded in the past. This is a good step.

However one of the shortcomings detected is that most of the affected market mammies did not insure their stalls against fire disasters. Most of them did not have bank accounts with the fear and belief that most of the victims might have lost huge sums of money in the raging fires.

The Stambic Bank has been contracted by the government to disburse the funds at no cost. The bank has advised all the affected persons who are without bank accounts to open accounts before receiving their share of the fund. Staffs of the bank are on hand to assist the victims in the markets concerned. This has multiple advantages to the victims among them being getting their monies kept away safely in the bank and also standing the chance of getting loans granted them in future to expand their trades.

One good thing about the loans from the Stambic Bank is that it is tied to an insurance cover that absolves the account holder should fire consume their stalls in future. Officials of the bank who spoke at the function therefore called on all market mammies and those in towns and neighborhoods to avail themselves to banking culture by opening savings and current accounts.

The Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection must throw their lots behind the Stambic Bank to draft more customers for the bank. In doing so it is our belief that civil society organizations will also team up with the bank to sensitize all traders in the markets and neighborhoods to adhere to banking.

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection formerly Ministry of Women and Children Affairs which is in the forefront of this project was established by the current government to ensure equality and protection of children and the vulnerable in the society.

The mandate of the ministry is broad having to deal with difficult issues within the broad masses of the society. However, almost eight months into the current government, the ministry has begun activities likely to bring improvement to the lives of broad masses of the people.

A whole lot of people interviewed speak of the ministry becoming visible in our communities. The happy turn of events emanate from the pragmatism of the Minister of Gender Children and Social Protection Nana Oye Liyhur. This young lady needs no introduction to the Ghanaian society. She is a lawyer, a human right activist and until recently head of the Human Right Advocacy Center. She was once coordinator of the commonwealth human right initiative in Ghana. She has accomplished a lot in the area of fighting for the passage of the right to information, the right of the handicapped and less privileged in the society and many more less privileged persons in the society. No wonder when she was appointed a minister all those who knew her like yours truly had no doubt that she would excel in her position. Being our daughter and a mother we have no choice than to support and pray for her to succeed. The time to help her to help Ghana out in one of the most difficult assignments of a minister is now.