Agbogbloshie: The victims of our wealth
(Agbogbloshie) “In 2009 – Sampson explained – a national report revealed that 250 thousand tonnes of electronic and i-tech material had arrived into the country from abroad. Of this, around 170 thousand tonnes were second hand objects, with the rest being only for disposal. Much of this stuff arrived, and still continues to arrive, under the guise of being donations from private agencies and nonprofits.
But also the 170 thousand tonnes of still working refrigerators, cell phones and computers that are sold on the market, have short life cycles and quickly end up becoming rubbish.
So what happens to these countless tonnes of trash? “Sodom and Gomorrah”, is what the citizens of Accra call Agbogbloshie; Africa’s largest rubbish dump.
Here the impoverished inhabitants of this “city in the city” take the refuse that they collect at the port and the various habitations so as that they can dispose it and, by burning out in the open, they can then collect the metal parts which can then be sold base on weight to be recycled.
Within Agbogbloshie lives around 80 thousand people – men, women and children – that have no other alternative but to live here, trapped in a place that offers them the possibility of survival but at a high price. Agbogbloshie is in fact considered one of the ten most polluted places on earth, where the air is unbreathable and the ground and the sea reaches levels of heavy metal toxicity ten time greater than the safe limit.
The people here live constantly with respiratory disorders as a result of inhalation. But not just this. The hygiene conditions are abysmal and people are constricted to live in handmade constructions of debris and fridge frames. It is truly a city built on the foundations of the electronics of yesterday. The children born in these places, are deprived of nearly any future prospects. Those who are injured, and in a place such as this it can happen easily, there is nothing that can be done except to hope it isn’t too serious. Hospitals are simply nonexistent and clinics are many kilometers away. And even if you happen to have the good fortune to reach one, the cost of treatment is extremely high. So, for the people of Agbogbloshie, it represents a level of care beyond their reach. Despite the health risks for citizens, the entire area seems devoid of any attempts on the part of the government to improve the situation. However there still remains those who have faith, like Alhassan Ibn Abdallah. He once was also amongst the countless children working in Agbogbloshie, but after years of sacrifice, he was able to save enough money to attend university, and now hopes to help children still living in the rubbish dump, by paying for their studies through donations from a Non-profit organisation. Now, as a result, they are engaging also on a political level in order to improve the conditions for all inhabitants of Agbogbloshie.
The risks do not lie solely in the Ghanese capital but across the entire world. As Sampson explains, there is no limit to how far polluting particles released into the air and sea can travel, and can even find their way to the fish on your dinner plate.
It is clear that this situation will never end if the west does not begin to put a stop to its unconstrained consumerism, which as we have seen, does not represent a problem just for Africa. It is a problem for the entire world. As Fiifi Koomson stated: “The west should be concerned about the problems in Africa, because we are all citizens of the world”.
Photos by Stefano Stranges