On Jamestown, Filth & Why Cholera Happened Again

When news about the Cholera outbreak in Accra broke, many people on twitter asked how this could happen in 2014 in Ghana. Some people thought it was a huge embarrassment and that government and local authorities should be ashamed. I agree, but how about us?

And then I went to Jamestown for the Chalewote street art festival. Just two days in Jamestown and I understood how this cholera outbreak could be happening in 2014 in Accra.

My friends and I had a stand at the festival- we sold drinks at the food court with a number of other food and drink vendors and I saw things…

I don’t know just how poor or hungry kids in Jamestown are, but I wasn’t expecting that much begging, and I certainly was not expecting to see kids eating from trash bins! I started giving out free drinks to kids, and then about 50 of them came around, crowded around our stand and wouldn’t even form a queue to get the drinks in an orderly fashion. They were violent, and it was so sad. I know JayNii Streetwise is doing as much as they can with kids in the area, but more should be done.

I got to Mantse Agbona on Saturday morning and found a pile of human excreta right in front one of the entrances. I couldn’t believe that someone walked up there and took a crap! The public toilets are not far from the spot – they’re right there, opposite Mantse Agbona! Then there’s the beach, which is littered with poop as well.

Now, I got one of the kids to cover it with sand, before someone could come & collect it for disposal, but I don’t know how many flies had gotten to it before I got there, and I don’t know where those flies went, but there was a lot of food around.

The cholera bacteria are transmitted between humans through the fecal-oral route. Simply put, from shit to food/ drink. Do you see where I’m going with this?

All the accredited food vendors I saw at #chalewote2014 did a good job of keeping away flies. There was disinfectant, some had mosquito coils and smoke …etc. but how about the unaccredited ones? We had one local walk up to us, and ask us how much our drinks were going for. She snorted at our 4 Cedis a cup, brought out her own palmwine with calabashes, set up opposite us and start selling at 2 Cedis or something with flies buzzing around her stuff. There were kenkey sellers too around, and festival goers were buying this ‘authentic’, ‘local’ food because … Chalewote of course!

Perhaps they were unaware of the cholera problem… Perhaps they had forgotten… Perhaps they didn’t care.

Whatever it was, after two days in Jamestown, I understood how there could be a cholera outbreak in 2014 in Accra.

Revised Version of the Hippocratic Oath. Azonto Style.

This is the original, modern version, which we must admit, does not apply to our situation in Ghana.

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death.

If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness
of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related
problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who
seek my help.

By popular request, here’s the Azonto remix.

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, depending on my financial situation because ahbe you know, life is hard in Ghana, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk when it suits me,
and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick who can afford it , all
measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to
medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug again, for those who can afford it, or when the government pays me because life is hard in Ghana oh.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know, unless the world or my friends and family really want to know . Most especially must I
tread with care in matters of life and death.

If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness
of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God except when threatening the government with a strike.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related
problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure. I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.