So, this week, I have seen the most sustained rainfall since arriving in Ghana. I am not speaking of deluge-worthy numbers, but it has been quite significant, raining every day, with deposits of a couple inches per occasion. I thoroughly enjoy the magnetism that is the thunderstorm: the crack of illuminating lightning complemented by victorious rolls of thunder is virtually unmatched in raw power and utter serenity. My mind feels most at ease amidst this beautiful chaos. I would liken it to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, with its masterful crescendos. As you can tell, I LOVE thunderstorms. However, my point in mentioning this thunderstorm has been the apparent lack of either one of these rapturous components. Their absence has been one of the sore spots of Ghanaian downpours.
The real issue with downpours here though, a more inclusive problem, is the public health risk that the downpours present. The issue manifests itself in the guise of a rudimentary sewage system comprised of roadside gutters. What‘s interesting is that Accra is comprised of a mixture of inhabitants coexisting in neighborhoods that are one part developed, one part slum (think Brazilian favelas), and one part transitioning. Because of the oft dominant slum areas, the gutters serve as the primary end disposal mechanism for household wastes, including, but not limited to regular wastewater, rubbish and sewage. One can imagine what noxious emanations crawl out and waft into the air, assaulting the nostrils of the passerbys. The stench is particularly unbearable on the sunniest days as the mixture is allowed to bake in the Ghanaian heat. However, my concern is the rainy days when the gutters are filled beyond capacity and overflow onto the streets and adjoining walkways. With this happening, the ability to successfully navigate the terrain is hampered and pedestrians must cross through it, sometimes only outfitted with sandals. This is where my public health senses kick in, channeling my inner Spider Man upon realizing there is the opportunity for cholera to appear. It’s probably of note that there is a significant cholera incidence at this time, interestingly only being outshone by the Ebola outbreak.
|Gutter outside the office on a regular day.|
Being a resident for the last couple months, this has actually given me a long term interest in being able to aid in the restructuring of the sewage system at some point later down the road. I have a friend out here who blindly stepped in one of these gutters one evening and his immediate reaction to the situation was that he, "wanted to cut his leg off," because he didn't know what combination of elements was inside that wastewater. Now, imagine having to walk through this mess at the height of rainy season. Again, Spidey senses are tingling at the thought. This issue is one that needs addressing, but the government, in all of its incompetence, has allowed it to take a backseat to a myriad of other issues. These other issues are definitely important, but this may be just as significant as most. Hopefully, as the years progress and I can make a return journey to Ghana- with the best of intentions- the government would have instituted some level of infrastructural change worthy of keeping our legs.
Until next time!