The inability of the relief teams from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), and the various local authorities to ensure social distancing during the distribution of food to the vulnerable in parts of Accra is exposing the people to the dreaded coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
A visit to the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park, which is the centre for the humanitarian operations of the Social Protection Ministry revealed that squatters, the homeless and the poor swarm the park daily to grab a pack of food, usually rice and chicken, without observing the social distancing rules outlined by the health authorities to combat COVID-19.
The food giveaways form part of the government’s efforts to ease the pressure on the poor and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdown, which has entered the third week.
According to the NADMO Director at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Mr. Henry Nii Lante-Plange, the Efua Sutherland Park distribution centre serves affected people in many areas including, Agbogbloshie, Kaneshie, Atico, Cable and Wireless, Bubiashie, Odawna, the Children’s Park and its environs.
“We work with the security agencies to enforce the social distancing rules but it has not been easy,” he said.
At the time this reporter got to the centre, Mr Lante-Plange was on the phone with a police chief urging him to deploy his men and women quickly to the grounds to enable his team to commence the distribution of the food to the people.
While he was on the phone, the people were massing up at the main gate to the park, creating chaotic scenes and thus exposing themselves to COVID-19, especially because just a handful of them had protected themselves with face masks.
Those who did not have masks on, said they did not have money to buy them and therefore made passionate appeals to the government, organisations and capable individuals to provide them with face masks and other sanitation items such as soap and hand sanitiser as a matter of urgency.
Mr Lante-Plange said though each person is entitled to one pack of meal a day (lunch), some people get more than one if there are surpluses.
While some said they preferred cooked food because they did not have the means to cook if they were given raw foodstuff, others said they desired the latter because they had the means to cook.
Besides, they said, cooking and eating at home would enable them to stay at one place rather than moving out daily into crowded places to get food and exposing themselves to the coronavirus.
They were however unanimous in calling for three square meals a day instead of the current one ration that they were receiving per day.
As those in front of the gate were struggling to enter the park to grab a pack of lunch, many others were seen running towards the park from the areas around Ridge Church, Kempinski Hotel, Tema Station, National Theatre and the Ministries.
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