All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ - Edmund Burke

October 23, 2008

S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 6 No 9

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report


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.Dr Barrie as he appeared in the Panorama programme

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 Kabia's 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 country.

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. Sierra Leoneans tell Sorious Samura that free drugs are a myth

"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 life.

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 listeners.

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 photo-opportunity projects.

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 Leonean one of the illegal outlets sellers is exposed.

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.

Yearning for the mother country?

The right choice is Kevin McPhilips Travel

©Sierra Herald 2002