Feature by Yaw A.O. Ansah
Accra, Sept. 18, GNA - It was just an hour downpour, which overflowed one of the uncompleted bridges on the Eastern Corridor roads, separating five farming communities from the Gushegu Municipality in the Northern Region. Residents, including school pupils, traders and farmers in the adjoining communities, had to wait for close to three hours for the floodwater to recede before they could cross to their destination.
Sadick Mumuni, a junior high school pupil and his six other colleagues who hail from Wawe Community, initially tried crossing the bridge but had to abandon that endeavour and return to higher and safer grounds. Amidst the cold and drizzling-weather old women, children and especially a number of breast-feeding mothers had to cover their heads with polythene and cloth to protect themselves from getting drenched.
The communities that are cut-off are Yishilayali, Zanetle, Wawe, Zei, Tumo, Puguan and Nawugu.
Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, Mr Christian Duute, a teacher, says two people got drowned as a result of the flood and that people in the area would continue to go through such hardships during heavy rains until government completes the Eastern Corridor roads project.
“It gets worse during the rainy season. We feel neglected. Sometimes farmers’ produce get locked up and sometimes get rotten, especially perishable vegetables. Government does not have our interest at heart.”
“We have beautiful infrastructure such as the interchanges in Accra and Kumasi. But how many over-head bridges or fly-overs have you seen in the three regions of the north? Are we not part of Ghana?” he questioned.
Mr Duute says the frequency of communities being cut-off as a result of downpours due to uncompleted bridges or bad roads are high in the Upper, East, West, Northern and Volta regions as compared to the south.
Successive governments have, over the years, focused their attention on developing few capital cities and this situation has impoverish rural folks, especially people from the three regions of north, which has partially become a pull factor for migration.
The frustrations expressed by Duute and many other rural folks are confirmed by the 2018 Inequality Report jointly authored by Oxfam, SEND- Ghana and Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, titled; ‘Building a More Equal Ghana.” It says geographical inequality is stark, with clear north/south and rural/urban divides.
It re-affirms the reality in the rural areas, being the bread basket and growers of foreign income earning produce for the country, by reiterating the difficulty in achieving the potentials and job creation opportunities of those areas due to the poor road infrastructure.
Ayishatu Ibrahim, a trader, reminisced how she lost almost a truck full of yams and bags of maize to flood last year when the road linking Nanumba North and South and the Kpandai districts were washed off.
“I lost chunk of my capital and have not fully recovered from that loss,” she said.
In the case of Mohammed Awal, a farmer, a motor king tricycle carting his freshly harvested pepper and tomatoes to the market capsized when it tried crossing to the Yendi Municipality. “I was going to sell the produce to buy educational materials and use the rest to take care of my family of seven. It has made me poorer,” he said.
These accounts reflect the finding of the Report that re-echoes that rural poverty is now almost four times as high as urban poverty. It also says progress towards poverty reduction in Ghana is regionalised in character, leading to rising levels of inequality across and within regions.
The report notes with concern that the three regions of the north have seen the smallest progress in poverty reduction from 56 per cent in 2006 to 50 percent in 2013. This has led the World Bank to declare that Ghana’s ‘success story’ in poverty reduction is one that only applies to southern and urban areas.
It reveals that the north is among the rural localities where poverty is highly endemic with extreme poverty incidence of 28 per cent in 2013.
Mr Ekwow Spio-Gabrah, a former Minister of Trade and Industry, sharing his thoughts on the huge inequality gap in the various sectors, agreed with the finding of the Report and added that a recent tour of the three regions of north showed a huge infrastructure gap.
“The rich continue to get richer. We see flamboyant neighborhood, increased number of used luxurious vehicles compared to communities where people were drinking dirty water, children trekking to study in dilapidated school structures and pregnant women in labour being carried on motorbikes to hospitals to give birth,” he said.
He recommended that government needs to work with development partners to focus attention on implementing social policies and deliberately set an agenda to embark on rapid infrastructure development to fast-track the development of these areas to attract investment.
“It is one of the reasons why I back the call that the Free Senior High School Policy should be discriminatory towards parents in the rural areas who cannot pay their children’s school fees. Government, by this discrimination, can make savings to embark on other infrastructural projects,” Mr Spio-Gabrah said.