THE PLIGHT OF SLUM DWELLERSBY ALLIA NOSHIE

It is every mother’s wish to see her child attain higher heights in life.

The hopes of a mother Yaa Mansa a slum dweller who resides in one of the most popular slums in Accra popularly known as Sodom and Gomorrah, is dwindling as she watches her 15 years old son Kweku’s dream fade into thin air.

Kweku had no choice than to forgo his education due to ill health and financial constraints to cater for himself, his five siblings and ageing mother.

Crushing his dreams of becoming a Pilot, he finds himself working as a ‘kakayei’ at the Agbogbloshie marketto make ends meet for his family.

This is the story of not one but many children who live in the slum, and wake up every day to see their dreams fade away.

Slums and informal settlements have been a subject of grave concern to many countries including Ghana.

Over the years, slums and informal settlements have developed due to increased urbanisation as dwellers often do not have access to basic infrastructure and social amenities like housing, water, sanitation and health care to adequately meet the demands of their growing population.

Today’s slum have been characterised by overcrowding, poor quality housing, insecure tenure settlement, and inadequate access to potable water, sanitation and lack of socio-economic infrastructure like schools, hospitals, public places, street lighting, sidewalks paved and access roads.

Evidence shows that one of the important factors that can undermine this effort is the springing up of slums and informal settlement in urban areas.

Surprisingly, scientific evidence shows that there has not been much support and management of slums and informal settlements. However,there is no consensus among policy makers, city managers and socialscientists on how this must be approached.

These dwellers often battle with high rate of crime, unemployment, urban decay, drug addiction, mental illness, malnutrition, diseases, and poverty amongothers.

Accra, being the capital of the country, has been hit hard by these slums, with an urban population of 2.27 million and about 4 million inhabitants.

Out of this,38 per cent of the population in the capital city were living in slum areas as of 2018, with a probability of it rising to 45 per cent.

Aspeople in rural areas migrate to urban cities in search of non-existing jobs, they end up flooding the slums.

These slums pull a threat to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals on poverty, access to health care delivery, quality education, decent jobs,economic growth and making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Problems that confront these dwellers can best be told by them, although hazardous and unsanitary, it has served as a home to many of the less privileged in society.

Migrants from rural areas often do not have any place to live and eventually find homes in urban spaces close to swampy areas that are flood prone, public dump sites and reservations along rails and roads.These spaces eventually become slums as more people flood in from villages.

Slum areas have a sort of communal life where children are supported somehow by neighbours although these support systems only provide food and shelter. Sadly, these supports are rather not geared towards helping the children to build strong future.

Even though there might be human rights concerns, a child living in a slum is equally as happy as a child living in a gated community.

Despite the conditions there, its inhabitants enjoy their day some with less or more than three square meals a day due to their cultural and social setups.

Their cost of living turns to be quite low as they feed from waste and pay little to survive with the hope of engaging in petty trading.

A recent study by Good Governance Africa (GGA) indicated that, governments and all stakeholders needed to accept and work with slums as forced evictions only worsened the plight of dwellers.

The research called on government to review the Ghana National Housing Policy (GNHP) as it did not effectively target the poor and low income segments of the population.

The findings suggested that rules and regulations governing human settlement development such as the Land Use and Spatial Planning Law must be effectively rolled out.

Additionally, it states that lessons must be learnt from the United Nations UN-Habitat 2011 programme which worked towards a better urban future.

The study proposed an effective coordination of all independent and isolated slum intervention programmes by donor agencies.

The report further called for the needed legal and institutional framework and resources made available to the Ministry of Inner Cities and Zongo Development to fit its purpose.

It called for the inclusion of slum dwellers in the decision making process in order to incorporate their views into future housing policies to make it more appropriate for them.

The research revealed that there are numerous factors that contribute to the formation of slums within the country, most important to note is the inability of current and past government to effectively find the best ways to tackle slums.

It is evident from the research that slum dwellers have neither the intent to leave nor the power to improve their living conditions. They would continue to live in their current state without aid from government or other agencies.

Slums are phenomenon that occur in developing countries and without a strong law or policy to guide the country in reducing slums, they would forever be present in the country.

But whatever the actions are, it is important to note that not everyone would be pleased with the road map to a slum free country, hence, the need to dialogue with slum dwellers to find better ways to improve their conditions.

Consequently, policy and planning initiatives aimed at addressing the problem appears to be failing as about one billion people who live in the slums have consistently been excluded in policy decisions geared towards the management of slums.

It is important that voices of slum dwellers and that of experts and social scientist are brought together to design more sustainable policy portfolios’ for the management of slums and to prevent the creation of new ones.

Government’s efforts to develop these slums with its affordable housing scheme with the privatisation of the sector have rendered many homeless with no access to these affordable homes.

In an interview, a slum dweller Madam Rose Awudjah popularly referred to as Maame Wole, a retired trained teacher who occupies many positions including Ghana’s Advisor on Market Women, said to ensure development at the slums, there was the need for government and stakeholders to build the capacity of dwellers by helping them access education and infrastructure, among others.

Whether we like slums around us as a people or not, slums are here to stay!!

It would, therefore, not be out of place if we build the capacities of slum dwellers and provide suitable facilities for them, to make life easy for them.

By Allia Noshie

Show More
Back to top button