May 9, 2018 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Representative has said that Africa loses US$95 billion each year due to inequality.
Samuel Doe was speaking yesterday whilst delivering a keynote address at the launch of the Sierra Leone Inequality Movement, themed “Building Inclusive Communities”.
“The 2016 Human Development Index (HDI) report of my organisation, UNDP, says that because sub-Saharan Africa, our Africa, Sierra Leone, is so unequal that it loses US$95 billion every single year from growth opportunity. It deprives its women from owning land, yet they are the ones who do 70% of the labour on land. It deprives its women from access to education and yet women are the ones who create society,” he said, adding that the country deprives its women from reproductive health facilities and yet they are the ones who give life.
The UNDP boss said that the HDI report shows that people in Sierra Lone live below $1 a day (Le 7,000), adding that unequal societies lose a lot in their struggle to grow economically.
“Everything we need in the world to live a quality life is here and yet we have billions and billions of people poor,” he said.
He asserted that Sierra Leone is one of the few countries in the world that are richly endowed with minerals like rutile, gold, diamond, a vast ocean with so many fishes and marine resources, plenty of rain, amongst others, yet the country is poor with 77% of its population living in abject poverty.
“It’s a contrast, it’s a paradox to be rich and yet to be deeply poor. An unequal society loses lives unnecessarily. So many children have died from basic diseases like malaria, among others. Why should that kill someone? Sierra Leone is among the countries with the highest mortality rate. An unequal society generates unnecessary violence against women and girls,” he noted.
The UNDP boss further said that the same 2016 HDI report highlighted that Sierra Leone, compared to all other African countries, has 81.4% of its women not having access to health, education, and economic well-being, compared to the men.
Doe maintained that the above ratio was below the average of 87% for Africa and that Sierra Leone was at the lowest ladder of equality.
“We don’t need that in a highly tolerant society. We don’t need these sorry indicators. We deserve better than that,” he emphasised.
He added that with better leadership, the issue of inequality would be reduced as other African countries have made a huge mark in bridging the gap between the poor and the rich.
Andrew Lavalie from the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) revealed that over 60% of people who used to live in mudslide affected areas still reside in those communities, adding that they need support to be relocated out of the slum communities.
Chairman Working Committee, Sierra Leone Inequality Movement (SLIM), Charles Lahai, said the gap between the rich and the poor widens every day, which according to him, has made inequality a serious problem for Sierra Leone and the world at large.
“We want to reduce inequality in all its forms,” he said and added that the movement was desirous of seeing peoples capacity being developed.
Head of Programme at Oxfam, Phebean Oriaro Weya, said the organisation believes strongly that the country must tackle inequality if it should reduce poverty and the injustice that it brings.
He added that to tackle inequality, systems that manage and channel public wealth and resources should be put away from the wealthiest few towards the majority that are marginalised and excluded.
“We must work for an increase in government revenue collection with this burden falling on those most able to afford it and an improved allocation to social and economic sectors that benefit the poorest,” he said.
He said that God gave us a world with sufficient resources to ensure that everyone has a decent quality of life, free from poverty, with the opportunity to make choices for themselves.
He averred that extreme inequality was not inevitable as it was as a result of intentional policies, investment decisions and political and economic ideologies that serve only a few people at the expense of many.
“Recent decades have seen inequality increase in most countries, limiting economic growth and leaving the poorest further behind,” he said
Weya disclosed that Oxfam has supported greater access to public services, especially WASH – water and sanitation – in education and renewable energy for the poorest populations, adding that they have supported citizens to organise and influence decisions that affect them.
Newly elected Chairman Western Area Rural District Council, Kasho Hollande-Cole, said corruption was the root cause of inequality in the country and that if eradicated inequality would be reduced.
“I will stop the illegal selling of land in the Western Area Rural district, and will re-register mudslides affected people,’ he said.
However, he warned that people should show willingness to move to safer places, such as at Six Mile, where former disaster victims now live peacefully.
Mayor of Freetown City Council, Yvonne Aki Sawyer, said she had had a long standing relationship with disability and vulnerable groups, which was why she decided to run for the mayoral position.
She said that in her manifesto titled ‘vision for wi community for wi progress’, issues, including inequality, were captured and that in the next four years she would work to tackle the challenges in the municipality.
Mayor Aki-Sawyer said that among her key priorities would be affordable housing, sanitation, environmental management, to name but a few.
“As part of the process, I will be going to every ward for town hall meetings to ask people as to what their priorities are,” she said.
She revealed that in the next four months she would be engaged in mitigating flooding that annually affects the capital city, adding that she would be engaging with communities on early warning.
“This time, we need to be prepared to save lives,” she said.
She pledged her support to the movement, stating that they would be working collaboratively to ensure that inequality is reduced in the country.
The launch of SLIM was sponsored by Oxfam and attracted local stakeholders from different communities across the country, including civil society organisations.