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Opinions of Thursday, 25 January 2007

Columnist: Bolus, Mercy Adede

Sodom and Gomorrah or Ghana @50

It is rather frightening to see elected Ministers busily preparing for Ghana at 50 against a backdrop of such places like Sodom and Gomorrah in Ghana.

As reported by in the general news on General News of Friday, 19 January 2007

The report stated that, a fierce fire swept through the sprawling slum of Sodom and Gomorrah in Accra, destroying property worth hundreds of millions of cedis.

The news gave a detailed items destroyed which included cash, jewellery, clothing, shoes, electronic appliances such as television sets, video decks and tape recorders and physical structures.

It also reported that this was the second fire outbreak in the area in less than a month.

Ghana Government where does our priorities lies. Unlike Ghana, the British established the discipline of social policy which emerged from the politics of collectivism and the practice of state intervention in the 19th century. Up till then Britain was similar to Ghana when it came to provision for the poor. From the ideas of Beatrice and Sidney Webb of the Fabian society in the 19th century the discipline of social administration took its roots.

The objectives of the Fabian society was to gradually move to socialism through state reforms which would bring about good health and freedom from destitution for the working class through a system of state administered, professionally provided welfare, and state regulation of the economy. This led to the introduction of the Poor law, Factory Act, public Health measures and other state provisions.

I am appealing to our Government to encourage the public to hold them to account and challenge uncomfortable areas like destitution and poverty issues.

Reading the news about Sodom and Gomorrah, one felt a bit like one of the victims.

Plight of the poor

Where would such people go for help? Do these families have any insurance to cover them in time of crisis? What is the governments own strategic plan for such families? It caused such havoc that affected persons were seen crying openly over their lost property. Do we even have a citizen’s advice bureau, effective social services, voluntary organisations that can reach out in crisis situations?

The report also highlighted the dense nature of this population alone as about 34,000 squatters. Obviously these squatters would be bewildered in a catatonic freeze as they watched the little they had perish in the flames.

My concerns is that whilst the rest of Ghana is preparing to have this grandeur Ghana @50 celebrations, the plight of these group of people remained untouched by Government strategic plans.

Does the poverty reduction budget cover these areas? With mobile phones now a common asset in Ghana these days and the Accra City Fire Station was informed, they were unable to get to the fire promptly due to the congested Agbogbloshie Road to the scene of the fire.

In the wake of this accident, there is a grave need for an integrated strategy which would involve health professionals in public health sector, social services, teachers, town planners, youth workers, architectural body, head of the Metropolitan Fire of the GNFS and relevant organisation etc. Such a strategy is do-able even in Ghana.

Many of the Fabian objectives in 19th century were not actually carried out until after the major wars of the 20th century. Most of the development in Britain regarding motherhood was through the Beverige Report in 1942. The resulting child and families issues have made British children better off than us in Africa, and was an example to many countries in the middle of the 20th century

There is no need to re invent the wheel to address inequalities in health when people pressure groups like the Fabian society and Beverige Report and others have clearly researched and seen what works better for the destitute among any given society. The welfare of children must be a priority to any Government in power. Every child matters not only the Ministers children.

Would it be fair to say that money given to Ghana to address the needs for the poor and destitute should be used to help those living around Sodom and Gomorrah and other similar areas?

The Ghana Government, the rich and businessmen, churches and individuals in Ghana must learn to acknowledge that we can only enjoy a good laugh with the poor when we all club together and work like the Fabian society to bring a change in the way we perceive the poor among us. We need to take pride in the little help we have done to create a difference particularly in the community that we live or come from to be counted.

There is no need to blame the Government at all when there are no pressure groups to raise awareness of poverty and cause Government to put in place social responsibilities into their international package to all businesses. Community leaders, chiefs and other leaders must learn to think of the community benefits of examples like public library, public toilets and leisure Parks instead of their own little benefit of one bottle of schnapps and whisky when it comes to doing a business deal.

Children everywhere must be healthy: free from illness and good mental health being, stay safe: from harm and abuse, enjoy and achieve make a positive contribution:involved with the community ,society and not be part of anti-social activities lastly achieve economic well being in order to reach their full potential: not being prevented by economic advantage from achieving.

The scenes of Sodom and Gomorrah is unacceptable and such we as Ghana must be ashamed that these areas exist among our posh Palaces and surrounding. The rich should try and form pressure groups to lobby their Assembly representatives, Ministers and others. Together let us all help to eradicate Sodom and Gomorrah and similar slums in Ghana and the rest of Africa.

Ghana can only legislate to ensure that such slum areas are not allowed to grow however this could be only be enforced if the government provide places for these group of people to stay.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.