( a post i wrote i while back but forgot to post here)
When my friend told me that David Beckham was in town, I went Black Rob on him “Like Whoa”. He was surprised I didn’t know but then again I think he’s got more sources of local information that I do. Even before I asked him what the hunk himself was doing in Sierra Leone I knew it had to be an Angelina Jolie. Almost as if he read my mind, he said, “as a goodwill Ambassador”. “I hate when these stars use us as publicity stunts” me says “yeah but its good publicity for Sierra Leone” says he.
In the business of development (which for Sierra Leone’s purposes means developing a thriving private sector and attracting investors and not donors…No Amartya Sen “development as freedom”) is having headlines read that Goodwill Ambassador Beckham visits Sierra Leone useful for us as a country? When people come to your country on goodwill missions it means that the conditions in your country are deplorable as I guess they are here. But though this is the image that NGOs may want to portray of Sierra Leone because it gets more projects funded, I’m not sure that the government at this very crucial time in our nation’s history actually wants more donors than investment. Beckham is hot. Sierra Leonean boys and men like others much like them all over Africa who are fascinated by European and British football adore Beckham but that’s where it stops. Beckham coming to Sierra Leone is not really going to help us fight against infant mortality. What the government needs foremost is the will to take on infant and maternal death rates as an important if not the most crucial health issue in this country. Then the government needs to devise a plan to combat this problem and then finally the funds to implement the plan. I am aware of a World Bank Grant to Sierra Leone to the Ministry of Health to improve infant/maternal death rates that was approved last year but has still yet to have funds released therefore the project has not started.
A week before Beckam came my uncle sent me a link to a UNICEF report on infant mortality in Sierra Leone…as I have said before, they are the worst in the world; 270 out of 1000 children born in this country will die before they are 5 years old (But truly not the children of rich parents who can afford to send their wives to deliver overseas and understand the need for and can afford regular health check ups for their kids. As is the truth everywhere; Income inequality means unequal access). I guess what UNICEF hopes for is that the headlines will read Beckham visits Sierra Leone and someone checking out that link on google or wherever, would want to know why he visited and then maybe in the process learn about infant mortality rates in Sierra Leone and elsewhere and care about it enough to take action; which in this case would mean donating to UNICEF. I’m guessing that studies have shown that this is the most affective way to draw attention to these kinds of issues and that we’re not receiving bad press just so Beckham can be in the press.
On his blog Beckham writes:
I was also humbled by the people of Sierra Leone who despite the problems they face, keep smiling and are hopeful for the future. They made me feel extremely welcome in their country and I will never forget the experience. One in four children die in Sierra Leone before they reach the age of five and many of the diseases that children suffer can be prevented. I genuinely hope that by visiting the affected areas and spending time with some of the people there, it will draw the world’s attention towards the problems children face not only in Sierra Leone but similar situations across the world. If you want to make a donation to the fantastic work that UNICEF does then please click here.
Clearly he wasn’t talking about all the people in Sierra Leone, as he wasn’t lucky enough to meet me. But statements like his puts all the people of Sierra Leone in one basket “Sufferin and Smilin”…Ah Fela your wisdom is endless. I wonder what the youths dem would say cause they are not smiling at all in fact they’ve made it clear that they are disgruntled… “Man dem no gladi”. I guess no one would give money if he said, “I went to Sierra Leone and the people are so miserable and hopeless, they can’t even crack a smile.” If you’re going to be a poor African in need you have to smile J
One of the gossip blogs writing about Sierra Leone much like i feared reported that:
“Hollywood soccer hunk David Beckham has handed out free soccer lessons to star struck children in the poverty-stricken African nation of Sierra Leone. The LA Galaxy star has jetted to the tiny African state as part of his role as a United Nations Children’s Fund goodwill ambassador.”
Who wants to be from or better yet visit the tiny poverty stricken African nation of Sierra Leone? I guess we should be thankful that potential investors to this country will not look to gossip blogs to collect information on the state of the nation. But regular everyday folks do read these kinds of blogs and for those of us who believe that bringing tourists to Sierra Leone could add a boost to the economy certain adjectives like “poverty-stricken” is like a jab to the ribs. Who knows maybe tourism revenues could change infant and maternal mortality rates in Sierra Leone? Actually, I think that might be a more sustainable solution than any amount of money one would donate to UNICEF on account of Beckham’s visit. So should we be more focused on the amount of people who are going to give to UNICEF because of this visit or those who have been turned away in fear of this tiny African state? On sait jamais!
In an article CHILD MORTALITY HIGHEST IN SIERRA LEONE, Associated Press Writer Eliane Engeler writes:
Sierra Leone, where a civil war raged from 1991 to 2002, is unable to offer sufficient health services to its citizens, like many war-torn countries such as Angola and Afghanistan, the report said.
Steven Ngaujah, a nurse at Brookfields Community Hospital in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, said many parents in his community are too poor to bring children in for checkups.
Annie Brima, also a nurse in the capital, said, “When these children fall ill, instead of the mothers taking them to the nearest hospital immediately, they prefer to ‘pepper doctor'” — treat them at home.
SAVE THE CHILDREN, SAVE THE COUNTRY
A good informative read would be Medecins Sans Frontier Report on Health in Sierra Leone from 2006