I'm so glad you could join us on a Friday morning to close down a rather big week. First, as we always do, here's a summary of this week's goings on.
We started Monday with a simple question: what is Ghana's disaster management plan? Four days had passed since the tragic events in our capital city, and the victims were still living in darkness, without water. People were still scooping mud out of their living rooms, families were still struggling to identify their loved ones among the dead, our streets were still covered in filth, cars were still blocking our storm drains, NADMO was still short of the supplies needed to bring relief to the victims, and we still faced the same risk of flooding if it rained again.
Apart from blaming citizens and in the same breath telling citizens not to play the blame game, the President had said little more about what was to happen. Oh wait, that's not entirely true. He also declared three days of mourning.
So we mourned for three days, and last night, it rained again. As soon as I finish work, I'm going back to the flooded areas to see what has happened there. To see all the books and furniture that they laid out to dry yesterday. I wonder whether they've been washed away again. All the rubbish they cleared from their streets and gutters and left in mounds on the sides of their streets. I wonder whether the rain has washed them back into the gutters. I wonder because I know of no effective plan to prevent these things from happening. I know of no effective plan to manage crises in Ghana. It's been eight days since disaster struck, and I still can't see the impact of Ghana's response.
In fact, there had been no response from Ghana. Only a reaction. Our reaction was to send the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation to go on a demolition spree, closing down and pulling down filling stations which had restaurants or other businesses that operated with naked flames.
The Minister of ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION was doing this in spite of the fact that the filling station that exploded was NOT situated on a waterway, did NOT have a restaurant or any other business that used naked flames on its forecourt, and was legally established at that location decades before the neighbouring buildings were constructed. But most importantly, investigation into last week's fire had not been concluded and we still didn't know what the exact cause of the explosion was.
This is what you call a reaction, and not a response. A set of actions which create the illusion that the issues are being addressed, but which in reality will do little or nothing to prevent the disaster from happening again, or bring relief to those who have suffered loss.
But these things work on the psyche of a traumatised nation. On Tuesday, the public appeared to be largely in favour of these demolitions and closures when we opened the phone lines. Lives had been lost, and people needed a villain to direct their anger at, and the filling stations seemed an easy target.
On Wednesday, we heard the harrowing tales of survival from two people who were in the thick of the dramatic events of last week. The most harrowing tale was shared by Kelvin Aggor, who stopped for shelter at the GCB ATM with about fifty others, but only seven survived the disaster. He told the heartbreaking story of people drowning and burning all around him, as he fought his way through debris-filled water to clamber to safety, along with six other blessed souls.
Yesterday, we took a detour from disaster-related issues to talk about the Ebola trials that the FDA had approved for execution in the Volta region. Parliament had been in a frenzy over it, and understandably so, because this is Ebola after all. However, in their frenzy, our lawmakers demonstrated a surprising lack of understanding of the situation. Some were asking why FDA approval hadn't come through parliament. Some were asking whether the vaccine – which has already undergone human trials in other countries including the United Kingdom – had been tested on animals before being tested on humans.
Again, our leaders led us blindly and we followed them loyally. The word Ebola strikes a chord of fear in everyone, so naturally, Ghanaians, in the absence of proper education, were justifiably averse to the idea of any kind of clinical trials. Our leaders, who were supposed to know better, knew nothing, and so the confusion continued. Again, we opened he phone lines, and again, people were unanimously against the trials, even though our studio guests had sought to provide answers to the nagging questions on our minds.
Also, yesterday was my birthday, so I decided to go spend it with the victims of the flood and fire at circle. We shared a meal and talked about their issues. It's been a week, and while the government hadbeen mourning, these victims had been struggling without power or water for seven days. Our thoughts remain with them and your donations are making a massive difference. Please keep them coming.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and it's been a week of Disaster Mismanagement and Clinical Mistrials
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!