On Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 09:53:10 PM, a 7.3- magnitude earthquake caused massive devastation across Haiti. I only got to hear of it on CNN on Wednesday morning as I was preparing to leave for work. I was amazed and touched by the aid pouring in for the Haitians. The Super Powers of the world, USA, UK, France etc immediately dispatched teams to help rescue the people who were stuck in buildings and areas which were not accessible. They made some miraculous saves.
The Stars in the US also did their best. Bradgelina donated $1million to the Haiti relief effort and so did others. Goerge Clooney also organised a Hope for Haiti Telethon which has raised over $60 million. There is even going to be a ‘We are the World’ remake on February 12 to raise more funds for the relief effort.
I was on my way to work a week after when I heard on one radio station that they were raising funds to help Haiti and that a concert had been organized in Accra to raise funds. On January 21, I read on Ghanaweb that the Ghana Government is donating $3 million to Haiti.
Let me state that what has happened in Haiti is sad and horrible and I hope the country recovers through the help they are getting from the donors.
The question that came to mind as soon as I heard of these fund raising was, ‘Seriously’? Why are these Ghanaian ‘Stars’, radio stations and the Government raising funds for Haiti?
In August and September 2009, high levels of rainfall inundated the Upper East, Northern, and Upper West regions of Ghana. According to the U.N., the floods killed at least 8 people and affected approximately 130,000 others in nearly 660 communities. Government figures indicated that in northern Ghana flooding has affected more people than in all other West African countries combined, yet the disaster has received little international attention compared to floods elsewhere in the region. Benonita Bismarck, head of operations for the Ghana Red Cross, told IRIN, “The magnitude is unbelievable but yet … nobody is talking about it on the international scene. It’s amazing.”
First of all where were these Ghanaian stars when this flood occurred in the three Northern Regions? Was that not a disaster? Was that not high profile enough for them? Was it too local for them? Or were the people killed or displaced too few? Isn’t there an adage that says, ‘Charity begins at home’? Why are we quick to help people we did not know existed a month ago when we close our eyes and ears to people who are just a few kilometers away from us in our own country.
Couldn’t they sing to raise funds for these people in the north? Or do these people not need their help?
The three Northern regions are the poorest regions in Ghana and I am sure some of these Stars are from there. Can’t we raise money to help them get on their feet after the devastating floods? According to a UN report, 6,350 houses, 13 schools, and 38,000 acres of agricultural land were destroyed. I can bet you there are people and communities there who have not been able to rebuild their houses after they were brought down by the floods. Can’t these Stars do a benefit concert to help our own? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to organise a concert to draw attention to the plight of these people?
And why is our Government donating $3million we do not have to Haiti? Phelim McAleer an American environmentalist and producer wrote, “The reason so many people died in Haiti is because its people live in poorly built houses and have not benefited from development which brings with it cities and houses which can withstand earthquakes.”
Sodom and Gomorrah is the largest slum in Ghana. An estimated 40,000 people live in this dense squatter settlement, strung along the banks of the polluted Korle Lagoon in the center of Accra. This slum is characterized by poorly built houses like those of Haiti. In September 2009, AMA boss Alfred Vanderpuije told pressmen that the slum was a national security risk, stressing residents there would not be compensated after eviction. My question is if we can donate $3million to people who are thousands of miles away, why can’t we find a place for our own people to put their heads?
A German Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Boenhoffer wrote, “The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” What are we doing for our children as a society? In this case, what is the Government and our Super Stars doing for our society? I am not saying donating to Haiti is bad, far from that. But let not William Shakespeare’s quote, “Nothing is so common as the wish to be remarkable,” define us in this case.