By Nyamacoro Sarata Silla
Six years ago, I wrote an article on what life presents for a person born as a Sierra Leonean. It was a grim account. This article is an update of the previous and seeks to look at the areas if any that have improved for the lives of Sierra Leoneans.
It is almost 60 years following independence from British colonial rule and, to date, all indicators tell us that Sierra Leone remains one of the poorest countries in our world. USA Today, a news outlet, lists Sierra Leone as one of the top ten most impoverished countries in the world (USA Today January 2020).
World Bank describes the Sierra Leonean economy as that of a least developed country. In addition, some other news agencies describe Sierra Leone not just as poor but as extremely poor. To gain further insight into the economy and have a Sierra Leonean perspective, I accessed the website of the country’s Finance Ministry. It appeared to demonstrate that there is very little about the economy that is not aid driven.
A quick search on the internet shows that information on Sierra Leone from international agencies such as the United Nations and World Health Organization are just as discouraging. Currently, in Sierra Leone, we are unable to register all births. The same applies when people die. Not all deaths are registered, and as a result, we can only estimate our annual births and deaths. A week ago, I was informed that 60 bodies were unidentified at Connaught Hospital morgue. This means that no one came forward to identify the dead and take bodies away for burial or have their deaths registered. This is particularly troubling when you note that registration of births and deaths had started in the colony of Freetown in 1791 and that in 1901 a law was enacted which made the registration of births and deaths compulsory for both Freetown and Bonthe. The year 2020 should be a different one. It really should be routine across our nation for all births and deaths to be registered.
Being in Sierra Leone recently indicated that even the tip of the proverbial iceberg remains untouched in enabling the lives of our citizens to be better; we still grapple with opportunistic diseases causing the deaths of many of our citizens, lack of electricity remains problematic pretty much as we were six, fifteen, twenty and thirty years ago, food shortages, clean water, access to basic, affordable healthcare, social concerns, gender-based violence, child abuse, fuel crisis, road traffic accidents, crime, youth unemployment, inadequate customer service, lack of discipline and poor sanitation.
To move the lives of citizens forward, the basics have to take priority for any government in power. An environment in which sanitation, basic healthcare, education (free quality education a government initiative which is currently in place has had mixed reviews particularly on the inclusion of the word quality) and agriculture is placed high on the agenda. These do not seem to be glamorous areas for government to focus on. They generally do not facilitate innumerable trips abroad or celebrity lifestyles.
Of course, the fight against corruption plays a huge part in the success of any country, and Sierra Leone is no exception. Corruption remains rife. Some advancement has been made in the fight against corruption, mainly in recovering public funds from the previous governments. However, the road remains hard and long. Premature congratulatory attitudes are best quelled for now until we come out of the doldrums in the fight against corruption. This might take years to achieve as it is also about changing hearts and minds as well as the full application of the law.
The struggle continues!