It is 2am. I’ve spent the last few hours reading about Pan-Africanism. I should shut down my laptop, leave the work desk and retire to bed. But I can’t. I am distressed by the pandemic and its malicious assault on innocent people. I have no choice but to free my mind. If I don’t, I may remain wide-awake until sunrise.
It has been almost three (3) odd weeks at home. At least I have a home. There are many children that, tonight, will lay their heads on concrete or sand, on an empty stomach, and sleep. I wonder what the homeless orphan child dreams about. I wonder if they are ever delighted at the return to reality when, suddenly, their eyes open and the everyday struggle resumes.
The little coins they could gather after a day’s hustle is no longer available. The lockdown has restricted the movement of potential customers and benefactors. The streets are silent and empty. The orphan homeless child is caged in a slum or has taken refuge underneath an overpass. The President has demanded the orphan stays put. It’s a modest effort to flatten the curve.
If she’s on her period, alone with no caretakers and without a dime, she’ll have to ignore personal hygiene. If the administrators of public toilets and bathhouses are charitable enough, she may access the free water government has made available over a three-month period. Perhaps, civil society may rescue her with free sanitary pads, soap and other toiletries.
If he left the hinterlands and journeyed to Accra in search of greener pastures, he must weather the storm alone. He can’t move out of the city until the lockdown is over. He took a risk to change his destiny and life has taught him a bitter lesson. I hope he saved for a rainy day. I pray a lengthy lockdown will not leave his shallow pocket empty. If this happens he may never have the capital to restock products again. Picture the pain of a migrant labourer.
I was lucky. What if the dice fell on the wrong number and I was conceived by poor parents? Would I have found myself, by default, in this vicious cycle of poverty?
Is it too late to save Ghana? Is the single mother, with an adolescent child, who is a nurse and works the night shift able to abandon her parental duties and join the national effort to care for infected persons?
Can we set up a trustworthy volunteer group of babysitters to support such unique situations? If she dies in the struggle what happens to her child? But, whatever the case is, government says we must mass-test. Indeed, it’s the only way to end this nightmare.
This is a national disaster that feels like a war. Top-down orders wouldn’t take us out of danger. Participatory governance is what we so desperately need.
It’s not enough to just listen to ‘Thuma mina’ by Hugh Masekela and sulk. I want to help. I want to be a part of the brigade that triumphs in the battle against the coronavirus. I want to lend a hand. A tear just dropped on the surface of the keypad. “Men don’t cry”, they say, so let’s assume I yawned.
If heaven yawns too, the city will flood. The raining season draws nigh. How would the orphaned homeless child who takes refuge in the open remain afloat?
This is a reality check. Was my patriotism and optimism in Ghana just swollen pride? I can’t help but ponder. The Republic isn’t able to care for the most vulnerable citizens. The lockdown is just a penitentiary for an orphaned homeless child, except the prison bars are poverty and not steel.
Politicians can’t avert these deep-seated fears with promises amplified by the media and petty hype. Is there really justice for the downtrodden? Can government protect their fundamental human rights? There’s a thin line between the living conditions of poor people in our densely populated capital city and a death sentence or a death wish.
If I may add: The phenomenon of corruption in politics is a war on the lower classes. Our nation-builders must know that we reap what we sow.
It’s 5am. My eyes are as heavy my heart. If you’re reading this, I want you to put yourself in the shoes of an orphan homeless child and reflect upon their discomfort.
The author, Vincent Djokoto, is a Business Executive and Columnist.