BBC PANORAMA PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS ASPECTS OF SIERRA LEONE'S HEALTH DELIVERY
SYSTEM AS JOURNALIST SORIOUS SAMURA DELVES INTO AID TO POOR COUNTRIES
He's been off the radar for what
looked like eternity, but when he did surface quite recently it was to show the
world that he had indeed been busy, working across the African continent to
highlight social issues many would rather pretend did not exist.
Yes - in a new BBC Panorama
programme "Addicted to Aid" Sierra Leonean journalist Sorious Samura has used a
country in East Africa Uganda and another across the continent in the West,
Sierra Leone to highlight the facade that passes of as aid to developing
countries. In the process, he has without frills and hyperboles brought to the
surface and in view of the world something that everyone knew about but refused
to put on record. That aid resources meant to uplift the poor, needy and
voiceless never get to those for whom such aid is intended.
His account of certain facets of
Sierra Leone's health delivery system backboned with stark evidence on the
ground leaves no room in the minds of doubters as secret filming footages show
just how drugs and other free health-related items find their way on to the
shelves of pharmacies and other outlets not fit for such a purpose to be sold.
In one scene, Sierra Leoneans are shown telling things as they are - ripping
apart the myth that some drugs are free, boldly stepping forward and with one
voice decrying a health delivery system that should but fails to cater for the
poor and needy.
The Health Minister Dr Soccoh Alex
admission that he is aware that drugs that are meant to be given free to
patients are being sold openly could well be seen as one step towards getting to
the bottom of the matter and hence making life easier for the poor in the mother
It is now to be seen just what he
does in the coming days to stop such a heartless trade that feeds on the health
needs of the poor and voiceless.
Despite this rather shameful
picture of Sierra Leone's health delivery system, it is gratifying to note that
despite the culture of greed, corruption and obscenity in the acquisition of
wealth at whatever cost, there are good men and women still within the borders
of Sierra Leone. Men like Dr Mohammed Barrie who is using his skills to help the
poor in whatever way possible to alleviate their suffering and to help ease the
burden of the heavily-laden.
In an article in the
UK Telegraph, the newspaper has noted -
Mohammed Barrie, one of
only five qualified paediatricians in the country and a
participant alongside Unicef in Sierra Leone's child
survival intervention programme, works in the
diamond-rich province of Kono. Despite its resource
wealth and with its war-torn past it is home to some of
the country's poorest families and most vulnerable
HIV-positive children, for whom Unicef is supplying
cotrimoxazole, an anti-bacterial medicine used to boost
their immune systems.
"I would say that out
of the 100 pharmacies we have here in Kono as many as 98
are selling Unicef drugs illegally," he said.
"It's a very serious
problem because this (is) one of the country's poorest
and most war-torn areas. Children from Kono are some of
the most vulnerable in Sierra Leone."
In six out of seven
pharmacies the programme-makers were able to buy bottles
of Unicef-supplied cotrimoxazole, and when confronted
some of the owners even admitted they had bought the
drugs from government stores and hospitals.
Nice work Dr Barrie, nice work. Do
keep it up and may the Good Lord/Merciful Allah bless you in your work and your
Sorious Samura has tackled the
issues head-on and could be forgiven for taking one UK International Aid
minister by asking him whether the abuse of resources under the country's aid
programme was not monitored for accountability purposes because those for whom
such aid was meant in such countries were black.
And this is the crux of the matter
and which the Panorama programme has so vividly brought to the viewers and
The Sierra Herald has in the past
asked questions of DfID the UK's International Development Ministry just how
they account for the UK tax payer's money as officials tick of amount after
amount, resource after resource poured into a yawning chasm that represents the
needs of the Sierra Leone government.
The breakdown of resources to
Sierra Leone and how such resources are used are never made public to those for
whom such aid is meant. Rather what those fortunate to see on the website of
DfID, when they care to put such information on their website, are bulk figures
that say nothing except to fulfil the yearnings of the pen-pushers at the
Department to satisfy statistical hunger.
How those resources are used, if
they get to the poor and needy is quite another story except for a few
The interests of the UK tax payer
should, in real terms be the duty of the United Kingdom High Commission in
Sierra Leone, but try to attempt to ask them questions relating to the
activities of officers of Her Majesty's government in Sierra Leone and you come
up against a wall that makes it so frustrating for UK tax payers of Sierra
And it is any wonder that some
Sierra Leoneans are beginning to feel that some UK High Commission officials
could well be a part of the corruption cycle that is harvesting disease, death
and increased poverty in Sierra Leone?
It is not enough for past
Development Ministers Clare Short and Hillary Benn to cry foul and raise the
dust on corruption.
More needs to be done to remove
the suspicion from the minds of the cynical in Sierra Leone that the UK is a
part and parcel of the ills that has been afflicting the country for decades.