While the rural life appears to be much better than the chaos of the city, especially when coming from a city such as Accra, it is important to remember that the rural communities battle against their own setbacks when it comes to leading a healthy and fulfilling life. While the communities I am visiting are set against a stunning landscape and live a picturesque pastoral life the truth is that there has been little development—they are essentially living as they have been for hundreds of years. The biggest obstacle they face is access to need resources such as basic health care and clean drinking water.
There is a government health clinic in the area but it has been closed down. In the case of a medical emergency a taxi would have to be called and this could take up to several hours. Mothers are still dying from complications during childbirth. It is also hard for the community members to access the government “free” health care because there is a fee of about $10 at registration which pays for the photo ID.
The water situation is very troubling and while there have been some improvements there has still not been any drastic improvement. There are a few wells and water catchment systems but these are limited by the dry season which causes these sources to run dry. The residents then turn to the dams which store water and slowly goes down and ultimately gets dirtier and dirtier. One big improvement that Walisu is very proud of is the eradication of Guinea Worm from the area. This was RUSODEF’s first project and was accomplished by simply providing households with cloth water filters on a monthly basis.
And while it is hard to resist the image of a young flute playing boy grazing his herd through a village and its tall grass when looked at closely it presents a host of problems--from contaminated drinking water to the young boy working and not being in school. It is important not to romanticize these scenarios and one must remember that development must happen and that it is a long road.
I spent the day hanging out with a ragtag bunch of orphans after school was let out. In Africa there are rarely true orphans with some extended family member always being close but this group was brought together because they had lost parents and their other family members could not care for them. They live together in a home and attend the village school. They are anywhere from toddler age to about 10 or 12. And like orphans everywhere they are lacking in every aspect except companionship. There is a British volunteer working there, she has been there for two months and is leaving next week. She had left for the afternoon and I quickly saw her hard won bathing results disappear into the dirt. They were interested in my watch so I set about teaching them to read a clock—I had little success so with every group of school children I have met in Africa the situation soon broke down into a singing demonstration with snatches of songs being shouted and recited—usually in lining form with an older student leading.
I am also starting to work on my first projects. This involves getting together a first aid teaching curriculum. I am planning to focus on basic sanitation and first aid care, once again with a focus on cleanliness. This education will take place during my village stays—I will be staying in each of the six rural communities for about a week. During this time I will also repair bicycles and teach some basic bicycle maintenance in addition to experiencing the villages’ daily life.