Feature Article of Saturday, 16 April 2011

Columnist: Twumasi, Patrick

I know where cholera lives

Honestly, I have a personal axiom; a self evident truth that, the consequence of an action is never above the person who acted in the positive or negative manner. Hence, the cholera epidemic being experienced in the country today should not be seen as emerging from any evil source, but a guest Ghana invited long ago. Unfortunately he is arriving at a time we the invitees thought he might not honour the invitation. If the period in which we were expecting to give him a treat he could not make it then, Ghana should be bold enough to tell this guest, Mr. Cholera, you are not welcomed here. But can the country look into the ugly face frame of Mr. Cholera and order him out of town? I doubt, for the reason that, what caused Ghana to receive this unwarranted visit are still prevailing. Have we desisted from packaging our human execrator in those black polythene bags and in the characteristically, business as usual drop them like a mail into the drains? To whom, I do not know, may be to Mr. Cholera. He’s got the message and has pulled up, now why complain?

It is amazing how the country pretends she was not expecting Mr. Cholera to pay us a visit. May be Ghana expected Mr. Cholera to have hinted he was coming to serve the nation something unpalatable, which after consumption we will “run our stomachs like crazy”. The national capital, Accra, let us face truth and not miss words, is choked with filth to the extent that, it scares and most times one may wonder whether we would not be buried under the weight of the ever present mountain of refuse. The waste management companies are seen working from dawn to dusk, yet refuse containers remains full. Health wise, when the refuse couriers are conveying the containers, they neither spray nor cover the waste well, leaven in its trail bad stench.

Do you fear filth? The city authorities see food vendors next to refuse containers, or sometimes these traders are virtually competing for space with this stench and not disinfected bins, yet health inspectors turn a blind eye to it. Surprisingly the so-called-educated-elite are visibly patronizing these vendors. Who has the moral justification to command Mr. Cholera to pack his bags of stomach and bowel disease and make for the exit? Who would? You can give it a try. But remember he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.

If you happen to be resident in Accra, the capital of Ghana, you can tell the world what goes on when it rains? What about the “things” that are poured in to the gutters and the spectacle that is left behind after a down pour? What of the case where the clouds gather, but could not rain heavily? It is amazing how we pretend of all that we have been perpetuating Mr. Cholera would not visit us. After all, he needs no notice to emerge on the scene, for the reason that, he has the moral right to come to Ghana irrespective of the fact that, he has no passport. Have you forgotten that, the Immigration Officers, the Health Inspectors, could not devise any means of stopping Mr. Cholera from entering the country under the noses of these entrusted with this duty? Do not get me wrong, I am not blaming the government or any institution, but if citizens are put before any constitutional court for dropping his or her “thing” and refuse into a drain, it could have help prevent these needless deaths.

Now let us take the swipe ourselves. Those who do parcel these packages for Mr. Cholera are our friends, spouses, neighbours and siblings, but we refuse to caution them of whom they are inadvertently inviting to dinner. Those relations of ours who turn deaf ear to tons of admonition, and should be reported to the authorities, which we refuses to do, has endangered our health. In any case Mr. Cholera is in town, think about it? Anxious, stressful and depressive? But remember to wash your hands regularly for your own safety.

Think about it, a river which flows from the mountainous region of the Akuapem Ridge been considered and thought of as a gutter when it runs through some parts of the national capital, Accra. Have you ever heard of “Alajo gutter”? When this same river flows to Nkrumah Circle, it is known and called, “Odaw River”. We are all aware of how gutters are treated in this country, therefore, where the Odaw River is considered a drain, you can imagine what the river is going through. You will agree with me dear cherished reader that, those who see this gutter cum river are in constant danger, for the simple reason that, these fellow Ghanaians are sharing a common bed with Mr. Cholera. The national capital has been relaxing on a time bomb of a pandemic not an epidemic. Take a stroll to some of our markets to have firsthand information on how vegetables and other food stuffs are handled, your appetite to satisfy hunger will abandon you. Astonishingly our sanitary inspectors and the city authorities see this hygiene challenge but give it a swipe to the margins, and now it has become a thick in the margin. A case in point is the slauthers at Amasaman, the Municipal capital of the Ga West Municipal Assembly. After slauthering the cattle, these butchers sleep, while others sit on the meat, with just a thin material covering when conveying the product to their various butcher houses. This health hazard has been ignored, as if deferred till disaster occurs before the nation rise to smile the roses. Gutters are distilled and the contents left right by the drains. In less than a day, the filth goes right into the gutters again, and then we start all over. It has become a vicious cycle. Do we learn from the past, then should Ghana survive this scare of cholera outbreak all citizens must have hands on deck to try and break this status quo of littering and ignorance to filth. Even in the face of the ugly visit by Mr. Cholera, have we recues ourselves from the dropping of the “Things” in to the water bodies and the drains? By the way, Mr. Cholera, when are you returning to wherever you came from, you have over stayed your welcome? Worse, you are taking the lives of your invitees. Folks can we eject Mr. Cholera from the residence of Mother Ghana? Yes we can. Our weapon is courage.

Do you know of the tale involving the tortoise, the rope, the bird and the hunter in the forest? Well for the fallibility of human memory let’s do a flash back. One hot afternoon, the bird had had a lunch of her life, she flew around the forest delighted and finally perched on a tree quiet close to the footpath which runs through the virgin forest. The bird began whistling at different pitch levels. Her blaring tone echoed throughout the hitherto serene forest. The whistling became a border to the tortoise. So the tortoise told the rope which had her root in the trunk of the tree on which the noisy bird was perching, to warn the bird not to throw caution to the air, for the reason that, hunters come around for game, therefore, it was not prudent for the bird to disturb in such manner. The bird ignored the admonition, mean while a hunter was also searching for the actual location of the bird to aim. Before the tortoise could wireless another message of appeal to the honeymooning bird, there was the sound, bang!!! The entire forest became cemetery dead silent. Whether by accident or design, the falling bird landed next to the tortoise. When the hunter picked the game he found tortoise and collected her as well. The rope was severed and used to tire tortoise and the bird. Then tortoise said to the rope, “The failure of this dead cocoyam headed bird to heed to advice has made us become victims for this lazy hunter’s soup. His wife might consider him as worthy of her, nonsense. Why should the lizard enjoy her pepper for the frog to sweat in her place?

Dirt is outside our homes and not from our rooms. Hence, if we decide to keep our homes “clean” while our streets are full of filth, Mr. Cholera will still pay us a visit. Both homes and streets should be kept clean.

What happened to our fresh water bodies which has led us to drinking unwholesome water? We have the answer. We swim, allow our ruminants to drink from these fresh rivers and wash our vehicles close to these water bodies, yet we sip from them for life. The question is why do we want to lay our bed crookedly and wish to sleep straight? We are our own enemy. We wear mask to scare ourselves. Who are we blaming; let’s take the blame in our stride.

Mr. Cholera might go and return next time, though we may be able to push him out this time around. But we need to take hygiene seriously to prevent any outbreak of these preventable diseases which our own behaviours open the gate for them to visit us when we least expect. What type of water is used to grow vegetables in some parts of Accra, especially Dzorwulu and Caprice? If you are out and about Accra, you may try and find out whether we are safe? The level of negligence on the part of sanitation is worrying to say the least. In a fog of lost confidence and a pale shadow of our former quicksilver and predatory form against epidemics, we have been overwhelmed.

We have to do away with the littering and the indiscriminate throwing of refuse through the windows of moving vehicles. These are some of the behaviours that, serve as a fence to epidemics such as what we are facing right now, Mr. Cholera. It is staring at us.

So you see, we all must know where Mr. Cholera lives. What is the line of action against him?

Patrick Twumasi (0209045931)patricktwumasi@yahoo.com