Friday, July 17, 2015

Stealing from the mouths of children

Ghana ranks 138th out of 187 countries in the 2014 Human Development Index. The most obvious signs of this poverty are found in the north of the country, where most of the population are small scale subsistence farmers who have to battle with poor soil quality, an erratic rainy season, and recurrent floods and droughts. Two in every 10 people in the south are poor, six out of every 10 persons living in the north are poor. The disparity between the north and other parts of the country is so gaping. These problems in turn often lead to serious food shortages and high rates of malnutrition. When parents are poor, they cannot feed themselves or their children. Thus pregnant women and children bear the brunt of this poverty in terms of hunger and malnutrition. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), four out of 10 children under the age of five in northern Ghana are chronically malnourished, meaning they will not be able to meet their full growth potential. Some of them, to put it even more starkly, will die for lack of food.

This is why Ghana receives tens of millions of dollars' worth of food aid from the international community. But somehow they never prove to be enough. The food arrives in bulk at government-run distribution centres and then quickly runs out. All too often those in search of help turn up to be told that that stocks are again running low or that promised deliveries have not yet been made. So what happens to all the food that is donated?

 Al Jazeera unveiled a tale of theft and corruption. Officials of the Ghanaian Health Service – some of the very people tasked with distributing aid to starving children - are stealing and selling it for their own gain. Food meant to be distributed at no cost to malnourished children and pregnant women yet unscrupulous health officials always claim shortage to those who are in need and sell it for profit to businessmen.

King's Village Health Centre in Tamale, northern Ghana, which has helped thousands of malnourished babies and children, operations director Dr James Duah is appalled. "In this community where there are so many malnourished children, and these people are deprived of what could save their lives … it is crime. It is the highest crime." he explained 

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