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A city under siege; water attacks Accra

Fri, 5 Jun 2015 Source: Dr. Essel

“Once AGAIN, torrential rains have hit the Accra Metropolis, creating heavy floods in various parts that have caused great havoc to lives and property. The team of ministers, the mayor of Accra, officials of the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) and the security agencies are going round to ascertain the impact” –GNA, 2009.

History it is said repeats itself BUT in some instances man virtually forces history to continue recurring. We leave it with no choice when we create the very conditions we know that will lead to flooding for instance. I wrote a similar article on the destruction of water after the major floods of October 26th 2011. Nothing changed, we continued just as in 2009. So ONCE AGAIN we are at the mercy of the rains and water is dealing Accra another devastating blow. This may well be the worst water-related destruction of my lifetime.

I was actually caught in the middle of this movie-like disaster as I tried to drive across town from Teshie Nungua. Roads submerged, cars and even buses obeying the direction dictated by the water, people staring in disbelief as their belongings enjoyed a buoyant ride in the sudden stream populated city of Accra and the heartless robbing their neighbours even as they pretended to be helping. I wonder how Noah’s Ark would have fared in this man made sea. This morning we will once again count our losses and many authorities on drainage systems and town planning will give their opinion but we will once again repeat the same mistakes and that is as certain as morning follows the night.

We allowed water to attack and completely disfigure our capital and to add to our woes many parts of Accra were also plunged into darkness and in the midst of all the chaos fire decided to inflict more pain on some people.

I am no expert in this area but I will share my opinion that hopefully will make a difference especially to our health;

LOOK OUT FOR THESE AFTER A FLOOD

After a flood, it’s time to clean up and put the pieces back together. Life will go on and those paid to address such situations will go back to sleep.

For those of us who have to do the “dirty” work, take note of the following:

• Electrocution – put off power sources.

• Broken bottles, nails and other sharp objects that may injure you.

• Avoid contact with insects and animals (there may be many stray animals with diseases such as rabies).

• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water as often as needed and wear protective gloves and other clothing if possible

• Get rid of all the mud and use disinfectants

• If you are unsure of an area avoid it till professional help is available.

EFFECT OF FLOODING

1. Economic Loss

a. Destruction of property can be extreme and in many situations it can bring economic activity to its knees. People are busy taking care of their homes, factories are shut because of the havoc caused by the water and several hours to days, weeks, months and even years of economic activity are lost

b. Resources that could have been used to develop the country will now be used for reconstruction – what an absolute waste!

2. Environmental

a. Our already ridiculous traffic situation will graduate to another level totally unheard of. This is caused by damaged roads (if the roads even exist), destroyed bridges and workmen trying hard to intervene.

b. Damaged farmlands will bring about economic hardships for our farmers as stored food and farm products may be destroyed. Certainly these losses will eventually hit the pockets of even those who live several miles away.

3. Human Beings

a. Once again, I will separate the number one culprit. Lives are lost (including through drowning) as well as homes, businesses, vehicles and many more

4. Diseases

a. Floods will always leave a myriad of diseases in its trail, both immediate and long term. Infectious diseases will have a field day and these include; common cold, food poisoning (especially when there is no electric power), cholera, typhoid and hepatitis A. Remember when everything settles, malaria will rear its ugly head.

b. The physical and mental impact on our health is often ignored but anyone who has been a victim of the effects of a flood will tell you that they experience; shock, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and physical symptoms such as headaches and general body pains. It sounds to me as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, what about you? Your guess is as good as mine; the effects are most devastating in children.

CAUSES OF FLOODS

1. Urbanization

a. Migration of people from the rural areas into the large cities such as Accra and Kumasi has led to an explosion in their population. We have outstripped the already poorly planned facilities available

b. The urban poor in the capital of Accra are especially vulnerable to the effects of flooding due to poorly and often illegally built structures, (many across the paths of water bodies) overcrowded living conditions, and inadequate sewage and drainage systems that are often clogged with refuse. Scarcity of land has also forced many people to occupy low lying areas and are also prone to floods

2. Decreased Capacity of Drainage Channels

A. our drains are chocked with refuse or are silted up as are our rivers and streams

3. Incapacity of Drains and Culverts

a. Drains are absent in many places, unfortunately in privileged areas where we may find some semblance of drains, their capacity is woefully inadequate. In some areas open gutters compete for honours as to which of them is able to reclaim the sand/silt skillfully dug out and lined on their edge. Really do we expect nature to find a way of leaving them along the edges of the drains till the rapture? How ridiculously NEGLIGENT can we be as a people. Is someone being paid to take care of these? They had better come out clearly to say they are and have been on STRIKE since they were appointed instead of claiming to be at work and doing absolutely nothing.

4. Impact of Climate Change

a. Extreme changes in weather are here to stay, so we had better find practical solutions to keep us safe. The rains are erratic, the sea levels are rising above many inhabited land and it’s only a matter of time.

5. Human Attitude

a. Probably the most important. All the factors listed above are directly linked to our activities.

Drains serve as our garbage disposal areas, edges of gutters are ideal for leaving heaps of sand and deforestation and exhaust fumes are adversely impacting our climate. We sow INDISCIPLINE and one of the many things we reap is flooding. We even build across water-ways.

We know what to do to prevent disaster to this extent and we should. No matter the effort we put in, education of people about the causes of flooding should take centre-stage.

Once Again I hope that in 2016, I will not have to write again “so long a letter” because we will be on top of our flood avoidance and preparedness programme but I have this uneasy gut feeling that history will once again repeat itself except a new type of leadership comes our way, an attitudinal change and a commitment to see a new Accra and Ghana.

AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)

Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Moms’ Health Club/Health Essentials

(dressel@healthclubsgh.com)

*Dr Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.

Thought for the week – “Water is extremely useful but if untamed can cause untold destruction and hardship.”

References:

• 1. The Holy Bible – Mathew 18:21

• 2“Impact of floods in Ghana and the way out” – Bentil Asafo-Duho

• 3. Journal of Water and Health -2009

• 4. WHO – Flooding and Communicable Diseases

• 5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA

Columnist: Dr. Essel