Ghana’s Fatal Floods: The Rainy Season, Effects of Inadequate Gutters and Improper Waste Management, and Ways ForwardMay 20, 2021 02:00PM ● By Nana Ama Addo
(Photo by Stig Gynaard)
The West African country of Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, is gaining popularity as a prime destination for people of the African diaspora to visit and relocate to. However, this reputation and the welfare of the country are undermined by its lack of infrastructure. Inadequate sanitation, poor construction site housing and unfinished gutters turn seasonal floods into death traps. Ghana has two main seasons: the rainy season, which lasts from April to October in the Southern part of the country, and from April to mid-October in the Northern part of the country, and the dry season, or “Harmattan”. Each year, Ghana’s residents experience immense and avoidable loss due to rainy season floods. FunTimes investigated the causes and effects of seasonal flooding, and strategies that can be employed to disrupt the yearly cycle of loss. Here’s what we found.
(A lady cleans the gutter in collaboration with the Keep Ghana Clean project)
Open gutters can be spotted in many parts of Ghana, even in neighborhoods that are known to be affluent. Refuse piles up on the sides of the road and in the open gutters. It is uncommon to find public dustbins on the streets. During rainy seasons, the choked gutters cause the rain to overflow and transform into floods. Flooding is notorious in Accra, the capital city.
Since 1995, heavy rains have been recorded to affect Ghanaians in the hundreds of thousands. From 2000 to 2014, approximately 245 people in Accra alone died from flood-related factors, with the city facing $244 million worth of damages in those 14 years. In June 2015, during a rainstorm, community members gathered at a gas station at Kwame Nkrumah Circle, a commercial area in Accra, to shield themselves from the rain. Due to flooding, an explosion broke out at the gas station, killing over 200 people, including staff, taxi occupants, local bus drivers and more. While the memory of this tragedy has been engraved on the minds of Ghanaian citizens and policymakers, it is unfortunate to say this was not the last deadly flood related incident.
(A rainy day in Ghana in 2014. Photo by Charles https://www.flickr.com/photos/charliecars/15171995899)
62% of Ghana’s urban population reside in flood-prone informal settlements and are especially vulnerable. For example, in June of 2015, a third of the flood-related deaths in Ghana occurred in or close to informal settlement areas. This means people with meagre finances, and communities in neighborhoods with the least resources, suffer the most from the floods.
(An informal settlement in Ghana. Image by SuSanA Secretariat https://www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/8152040443/ )
Now, how does Ghana fix its sanitation problem?
If the government would fix the roads with sustainable materials, finish developing the gutters, hoist sanitation infrastructure, and improve the economic welfare of citizens, Ghana’s floods may not be so deadly. Furthermore, the country would benefit from a radical transformation of Ghana’s culture of littering. Able and willing citizens, and people of the African diaspora, also have important roles to play in creating this change.
African changemakers are picking up the slack of government shortcomings. One of them is Coliba Ghana Ltd, a Ghana-based start-up that utilizes a mobile app to manage waste across West Africa. Recently, Ghanaian celebrity youth created the #FixtheCountry movement, a platform where citizens advocate through peaceful protest for the Ghanaian government to make more rapid reforms of the country.
Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ( www.asieduasimprint.blog ).
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