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Opinions of Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

The mortally endangered toddlers of Ghana

By George Sydney Abugri

In Ghana many little children unaccompanied or unattended to by any adult, have been burnt alive in domestic fires, fallen into pits, wells, latrines and manholes, attacked by mentally ill people, crushed by speeding automobiles, kidnapped and suffocated in automobiles:
A group of little children aged between two and five years are playing unattended to by a roadside. Suddenly one of them lets out a piercing squeal, it is uncertain whether in delight or pain, races across the road and is run over by a speeding car.
Outside a popular community pub, a truck driver who has just offloaded crates of beer from his truck, reverses the truck and runs over a toddler who had been crawling around on all fours at the rear of the truck. The toddler’s mother had gone indoors.
Three children aged between two and four think it would be fun to get into a parked car and play. They manage to open the car door and get in but after shutting the door again, they are unable to get out or call for help. With the window glasses rolled up all three children suffocate to death.
Children are playing around without an adult anywhere in sight. Suddenly a mentally ill person wielding a machete appears and attacks one of the children killing her.
From Alajo through Teshie to Tema Newtown, the sight of little children defecating in huge drains with putrid and slimy liquid waste, rank garbage and human excreta all around them, is a nauseating but fairly familiar sight. That they are exposed to a wide range lethal disease germs and bacteria that not seem to concern anyone.
Children will often be seen playing on refuse dumps highly contaminated with toxic chemicals from industrial processing and discarded materials. Many of such chemicals have been found to be especially hazardous to children they inhibit the development of the reproductive system, the nervous system and the brain.
Children are sometimes seen playing at old and abandoned building construction sites or new ones when no one is around. Many play on abandoned water tanks at the sites and risk falling in. Others are prone to injuries from sharp objects and junk metal left behind by contractors.
The following reports picked at random reveal the gravity of the problem of constant exposure of children to mortal danger in Ghana: On Wednesday, 20 March 2013, Boss FM reported the death of two siblings who suffocated in their mother’s car at Nkwanta Kesse at Affigya Kwabre. Their father Mr. Clement Simpson said it happened in the evening of that day.

The children had entered their mother’s car to play and got locked in. They remained in the car for many hours while their parents and relations combed the vicinity looking for them.
A police detective told the Telegraph that thorough investigations may sometimes be necessary to confirm that children who died in this manner were not victims of crime but he added that the issue at stake remains the same, namely that the children had been left unattended to.
In November last year, one-and-a-half year old Zalatu Yakubu fell into an uncovered, un-walled well in a house at Koforidua. A scandalized Assistant Commissioner of Police James Azuma Abass ordered the arrest of her parents. “We want to find out why the one-and-a-half year old was left all by herself and why the well was not covered”, he told reporters at the time
Three children, Richard Bonna, Jackson Nti and Kwaw Frimpong were found dead in a KIA Sportage vehicle, with registration number GR 7755 R, at Anyaa, a suburb of Accra, on February 4, 2009.
In October 2012, the Adenta Police acting on a report, found four children dead in a pool at Japan Motors, an Adenta suburb. They had been playing near the pool all by themselves
In one of the worst cases of the exposure of children to harm, four children, Ernestina Annan, 4 years, Josephine Martey, 4 years, Samira Ibrahim, 7 years and Farouk Ibrahim, 2 were found dead at Okponglo, a suburb of Accra after suffocating to death in a Citroen Saloon car with registration number GW 9146Q at a an automobile mechanic’s shop. The children aged between 2 and 12 years, included three females and one male.
A 55-year-old mentally ill woman Nyankuamoah Ewuraba was at the Twelve Apostles Prayer Camp at Anwia in the Nzema East District of the Western Region reportedly undergoing treatment.
As part of the process of healing, she was chained to a tree. While other patients and managers of the camp officials were asleep, freed herself from the chains, picked up a machete in the compound and butchered the sleeping eight-year daughter of the camp owner.
In 2011, four children aged between three-and-half and six years, Patience Dede Maako, six, Emmanuel Kofi, four, Jenifer Addo, five, and David Addo, three-and-half were burnt to death in a room in an uncompleted building at Koforidua at about 8.30 AM.

The door of the room in which the children had been playing had been locked from behind while their mothers away from the house.
Two children, aged two and three years residing at Osei-Kofi-Akuraa, near Adomfe in the Asante-Akim South District, died shortly after being rescued from a well they fell into while playing unattended to. Alima Abubakar and Jessica Dedaa were playing with one other child, Ama Amina, 3, near the well when they accidentally fell into it.
In September this year, eight year old Kamel Basiru went alone to a school latrine at Nima, fell into it and drowned in human excreta. The in a crudely constructed school latrine at Nima
Recently, the Ghana National Commission on Children revealed that though Ghana was the first country to ratify the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child, the country has not achieved much in terms of the goals set in the national action plan for promoting the rights and protection of children.

The GNCC cited lack of enforcement of the legislation intended to protect the child and harmful cultural practices in some parts of the country as some of the reasons.
{The author is Editor-in-Chief of the General Telegraph}