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Ghana Government Signs the Death Warrant of Children

Tue, 30 Apr 2013 Source: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong

By: Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah & Joseph Atindana

It is an indisputable fact that the future of every nation or society rests on the shoulders of its youth, particularly children. This underscores the absolute need for every society to devote a considerable amount of its energy and resources towards the promotion of children’s upbringing, training, protection and wellbeing. Disappointingly however, this does not seem to be the case in Ghana and many other African countries.

Children, as the Good Book mentions, are a gift from God and should thus be cherished and properly cared for. But, Ghana, a nation with over 85% religious people, is apparently bent on defiling this fundamental divine instruction by turning a blind eye to the plights of children, which include domestic abuse, poverty, famine, malnourishment, poor health-care, lack of decent education, rape and other sexual assaults, child labour, and premature death.

For years, children in Ghana have suffered and continue to suffer various kinds of very serious abuses. We come across numerous reports of innocent children being persistently beaten mercilessly; accused of witchcraft and treated like witches and wizards; locked up in kiosk-like places for ages; subjected to various horrible sexual assaults and certain outmoded cultural practices such as female genital mutilation; getting trapped in boisterous waters, man-holes and giant ditches due to societal negligence; and many more.

Ordeals like these usually have very horrific consequences such as massive burns, scars and other severe physical injuries; illiteracy; mental disability; psychological and emotional trauma; genital complications; and/or even untimely death.

What is even more pathetic is the fact that these inhumane treatments of and atrocities against children are usually carried out by the very people whose responsibility it is to train, guide and protect children, and to safeguard their wellbeing – parents and families, educational and religious institutions, politicians, the older generation, and society at large.

Ghana has had ministries in charge of women and children’s affairs (now Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection) since time immemorial; but what do they do to promote and safeguard the welfare of children? Almost nothing! We frequently witness instances where alleged notorious child molesters are let off the hook by our legal system, not because the suspects are truly innocent, but because our legal and political systems are corrupt and/or incompetent.

Instead of seeking justice for these defenceless children, the ministry instituted to oversee their wellbeing, disappointingly, decides to let sleeping dogs lie. What a shame! With a strong gay rights advocate presently in charge of their welfare, our only prayer is that these innocent children, as they grow up, do not erroneously believe or develop the notion that gay relationship is a phenomenon that is normal and endorsed by the Ghanaian community.

It is obvious today, that the health system in Ghana has completely deteriorated, and those suffering the most awful consequences of the appalling health situation are young children. Pathetically, the national health insurance scheme is collapsing, and the nation is gradually reverting to the so-called cash and carry system. This means that children whose parents lose their jobs or are unemployed, stand almost no chance of surviving should they (the children) slip into a ditch of deadly diseases or take ill.

UNICEF reports that every year in Ghana, about 80,000 children do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday. Most of these children die from preventable causes such as malaria which claims one-quarter (20,000) of all under-five deaths every year, acute respiratory infection which is responsible for 18 per cent of under-five deaths, diarrhoea (18 per cent), and malnutrition which is the underlying cause of death in half of all under-five deaths. The report stresses, that over the last five or six years, national infant mortality and under-five mortality rates in Ghana have not improved – a shocking evidence that children continue to die needlessly.

Some children, by no fault of theirs, are born to financially challenged parents and into poor families. The only hope and lifeline for such blameless children is usually the support from society, particularly, government. But unfortunately, in Ghana, vulnerable children are frequently let down by the haphazard system.

One other big prevalent phenomenon aggravating the plights of the Ghanaian child is marriage breakdown. It has very convincingly been established, that children raised in standard two-parent families become more responsible in society and achieve much more successes in life than those born into broken families or brought up by single parents. The latter often grow up to become irresponsible adults and a burden, not only to their families, but also to/on society in general.

Some of the numerous unpleasant things researchers identify with children raised by single-parents or in broken homes are: poverty; school drop-out, poor education or academic failure; lower average levels of cognitive, social, and emotional well-being; and violent behaviour including burglary and armed robbery.

All that the Ghanaian child is asking from government and society are:

The availability of a legal system that is not blinded by money and greed; and that strengthens their security and safety by dealing drastically with those that pour hot water on them, accuse them of witchcraft, sexually assault them, maim or behead them, and/or abuse them in other ways.

The total revamp or reformation of the ministry responsible for the promotion of their safety and wellbeing, so that it is able to effectively prevent them from being turned into sachet water, dog chain, orange or bread sellers; shoeshine lads and lasses; farm workers; sheep or cattle tenders; fliers or posters distributors; and drivers’ mates, during school hours. They expect this body to be able to put in place effective measures that monitor how they are treated by their parents or guardians; and to facilitate the apprehension and successful prosecution of people who molest or attempt to abuse them.

The provision and implementation of a policy that ensures that they are socio-economically supported; a policy that makes government fully responsible for their upbringing and welfare should they be let down by the people they call their parents and the institutions that are supposed to play key roles in their journey towards adulthood.

The implementation of a programme that ensures, that they have easy access to health facilities, and enjoy free or almost free healthcare, irrespective of the availability/operation or otherwise of the National Health Insurance Scheme; and

The introduction of efficient pro-marriage establishments and policies that support marriage couples and ensure, that marriages are not short-lived, so they (the children) could enjoy both the motherly and fatherly affections that they are entitled to, in their upbringing.

Unquestionably, premature death is usually the fate of children who are let down by government. For years, the colossal plights of Ghanaian children have been significantly overlooked by previous administrations and the present government, resulting in the destruction of the lives and needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of children.

Is the Ghana government’s abandonment of children and inaction not tantamount to the signing of their death warrant? The government is entreated to act, not tomorrow, not the day after, but now.

Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah is a researcher and an educator Joseph Atindana is a former economics student at GIMPA.

Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong