Fighting invincible enemy: lessons for Ghana

Even though the world is not at war, certain occurrences portend war between and among nations. For instance, but for the emergence of COVID-19 that seems to have taken the attention from many things, the tension that was mounting in the Middle-East following the killing of Iran’s most powerful military commander, General Qasem Soleimani, by US forces in Iraq would have altered the history of the world by now. 

Iran was threatening a full-blown war with the US and allies who had a hand in that killing. Perhaps, that war, if it had happened, could have brought unimaginable consequences to the global economy.

But that is not the situation right now. Today, the world is in constant paranoia not because the glaciers at the north and south poles have melted into the sea and swallowed unprotected coastal belts. Of course, climate scientists have warned that the world risks total extinction if nothing is done to address global warming.

The subject of this piece is not about the US versus Iran, neither is it about the third world war. It is simply about the scourge of an invincible enemy called coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on the economically disadvantaged in Ghana. 

Ghana recorded its first COVID-19 case earlier in March and subsequently announced a partial lockdown of the national capital Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi. 

The lockdown of these areas brought most economic activities to a halt, leaving those who lived on daily wages to their fate.

 In the wake of the lockdown, the challenges that many families went through to meet the basic needs of their dependents were unbearable. 

 Out of abundance of caution, our brothers and sisters from the north,  most of who lived a life   referred to in local parlance as “from hand to mouth”, decided to travel back home because of the fear of the unknown during the lockdown. 

However, their journey was truncated as they were ‘arrested’ and returned to Accra. 

Bad as the decision was, the travellers, upon their return to Accra, were sheltered at the Social Welfare Center with the Vice President, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, providing each one of them GH500.00 for their upkeep.

Much as I commend the gesture of the Vice President for supporting a worthy cause, the story of these people, who mostly are head porters in Accra,  brings to the fore the thorny issue of economic and social disparity which we, as a nation, have collectively failed to address. 

It is a known fact that a large segment of Ghana’s population is economically and nutritionally vulnerable. More than that, only a handful of them have had the privilege of obtaining university or secondary education.

Few days ago, I chanced upon a brilliant piece authored by Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Member of Parliament for North Tongu Constituency titled:”Stark realities and hard truths that have come to the fore about our Republic which we need to honestly confront”.

In that article, the lawmaker argued that Ghana’s economy is not as robust as it was made to appear and called on politicians to create opportunities for “the thousands and millions out there who need and deserve a helping hand to live in dignity.”

I commend Mr Ablakwa’s candid admission and the recognition that the powers that be should work hard so that our brothers and sisters from the north and the rest from the other parts of the country would stand a chance for a better life.

Each day, I see young men and women with indomitable and dignified spirits struggle to earn a living. It breaks my heart anytime I see my sisters carrying heavy loads under the scorching sun for a few cedis.

Motivated, perhaps, by a strange combination of righteous indignation and deep-seated guilt for the many ways leadership continues to oppress my brothers and sisters, I feeling quite miserable sometimes, to the extent that I shed tears.

It must be observed that the failure to address these structural inequalities has accounted for increased violence, ignorance and poverty in the Ghanaian society.

Let me break it further, violence is more than just physical.  Harm or destruction of life also entails economic and social violence, such as inequalities in healthcare, education, access to clean water etc. These phenomena kill just as a gun-shot do, except that they do so slowly but with a greater suffering over time.

So, yes, violence, ignorance and poverty are inextricably connected in an unholy trinity. Ending ignorance will reduce poverty, which will in turn promote peace and reduce violence.

It is time leadership charted a new course, one that inspires hope and ensures the less-privileged have access to basic healthcare, education, housing and employment in Ghana.

By all means, let leadership roll out a deliberate educational programme that targets needy and brilliant students because it is through education that the human soul could become a rocket ramp for us to overcome our fragility and change it to become our greatest strength.

How elaborately the great statesman Daniel Webster phrased this strength when he said, “If we work on marble, it will perish. If we work on brass time will efface it. If we raise temples, they will crumble to dust. But if we work on men’s immortal minds, if we imbue them with the highest principles, with just the fear of God and love of their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which time cannot efface, which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.” 

This can be achieved only if we put our minds to it.

It is my hope that the outbreak of coronavirus in Ghana should provide salutary lessons to those at the helm of affairs that we cannot do things the same way and expect different results. 

Now is the time to invest all the dollars, the pounds, the Euros and the Yen we take as loans and grants from the Bretton Woods institutions and well-endowed countries in science, technology and research.

The world is still bearing the brunt of this monster that continues to destroy homes, by changing the destinies of many children into orphans and making couples widows and widowers.

COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses in global healthcare and it is a call on African leaders, especially those who frequent the so-called countries with efficient health system, to wake up and improve facilities here.

There are lessons to learn from the emergence of and the fight against the pandemic. 

While it is commendable to stay the course in terms of mitigation, it is equally important to learn from the good example of South Korea’s mass testing to curb the spread of the virus. So far we, as Ghanaians should be proud of the efforts by our Government that has helped to reduce the spread of the global disease. We had our first two cases in March, and currently the total confirmed cases are 45,313; recoveries 44,188; active cases 842; new cases 125; and deaths 283. The statistics paint a good picture for our country but we should not relax.

As the world races against time for a vaccine and ultimately find a cure for COVID-19, Ghana needs to strengthen efforts at mitigation, intensify public education on personal hygiene and wearing of face masks, encourage the use of hand sanitizers and observance of physical distancing protocols.

By Malik Sullemana

The writer is a journalist and a climate change activist.

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