It is an area of endemic poverty.A string of old, dilapidated wooden structures roofed with corrugated iron sheets serve as accommodation for the residents.
The gutters are breaking from volumes of waste that are thrown into them by the slum dwellers.
There is an unending bustle and hustle as the young, the old, as well as male and female, break their backs to make a living.
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Unyielding commercial motorbike operators, popularly called “Okada”, toot their horns as they go through the hurly burly of life to put food on their table.
Pan-wielding head porters, popularly called ‘kayayei’, leave no stone unturned as they roam the Konkomba Yam Market and other parts of Accra to ply their trade.
After a hard day’s work, they return to the slum community to continue with another battle for where to lay their heads.
In groups of six or even 10, they pool resources together to pay for these wooden structures that they know and call their homes.
This is the fate of the about 100,000 slum dwellers at Old Fadama at Agbogbloshie in the Greater Accra Region.
They are among 5.5 million others who live in various slums across the country.
It is in this slum that 20-year-old Nafisa and five others pay GH¢50 a week for a wooden structure.
This translates into GH¢200 a month and GH¢2,400 a year.
A recent research conducted by People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements (PD) Ghana, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), has identified about 300 slums at different stages of development in Accra.
The study, dubbed “Improving governance, voices and access to justice in Ghana’s informal sector”, was released in February this year.
The report revealed that 76 of the slums had already matured, while 116 of them were still in the infantile stages.
It added that some 108 areas had been identified as having the potential of becoming slums because of poor planning and the illegal putting up of structures.
Some of these slums include Jamestown, Sukura, Chorkor, Madina-Zongo, Ashaiman, Bawleshie, Tema Motorway area, Newtown, Takoradi and Suame Magazine.
Prior to this report, a United Nations statistics in 2016 had shown that nearly 5.5 million Ghanaians, representing about 38 per cent of the total urban population, lived in slums.
Challenges versus SDGs
The SDG Eight seeks to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
Decent job in this context is explained as safe working conditions with fair wages that provide opportunity for people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Although this SDG is crucial and has a lasting effect on poverty eradication, slum dwellers are more disadvantaged in terms of access to decent jobs.
The mode of operation of Okada, the kayayei business and hunting for scrap metal by residents of Old Fadama, Nima and Ashaiman defeat the definition of a decent job.
In addition, SDG One that seeks to end poverty in all its forms by 2030 is greatly threatened by the sub-standard nature of slums.
Ghana has made good gains as the first sub-Saharan African country to achieve the previous Millennium Development Goal (MDG) One on halving poverty in the country.
However, the future looks bleak because of the lack of access to quality education and healthcare facilities in slums, as well as social exclusion and low incomes from menial jobs.
In the Old Fadama slum for instance, there is no single public school in the area compelling the children to either go to the mushrooming private schools or travel distances to other parts of the city.
The situation is even dire in terms of healthcare facilities.
They rely on a handful of sub-standard drug stores and improvised clinics for their health care.
This development threatens the achievement of SDG Four on ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and to promote lifelong learning.
The situation gets worse as parents, who do not have any meaningful source of livelihood, still cough up money daily to keep their wards in the privately owned schools.
The nearest health facilities in the area are the Princess Marie Louis Children's Hospital and the Usher Clinic at Jamestown.
Meanwhile, SDG Three is an ambitious move to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
The filth, dirt, choked gutters and poor waste disposal systems that are synonymous with slum communities such as Old Fadama, Nima, Chorkor and Ashiaman pose a great threat to SDG Six on access to safe water sources and sanitation for all.
The residents are always at the mercy of sanitation-related diseases such as malaria and cholera. This situation also has a negative impact on the SDG 11 on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who is a co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s group of eminent advocates for the SDGs, has set up an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate national efforts to achieve the SDGs.
In June this year, Ghana and the UN signed a five-year document dubbed the UN Sustainable Development Partnership (UNSDP) spanning 2018 to 2022.
This document spells out Ghana's national goals as contained in the Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies, 2017 to 2024 and how they can form a synergy with global initiatives to achieve the Agenda 2030 for SDGs.
The Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MSWR) also launched a document dubbed: “Guidelines for targeting the poor and vulnerable for basic sanitation services in Ghana”, to deliver pro-poor Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities to the needy.
It is also refreshing that the Ministry of Children, Gender and Social Protection (MCGSP) is collaborating with the Ministry of Business Development to roll out a skills training programme for 15,000 kayayei in 2019.
The MCGSP Minister, Mrs Cynthia Morrison, who stated this in an interview on Thursday, November 8, 2018, said day care centres would be created to take care of the children of the kayayei while they underwent the training.
The move by the Ministry of Inner City and Zongo Development to provide education and sports infrastructure in zongo communities in Accra in particular is a step in the right direction.
Slum communities have cross-cutting development challenges, which present a multiplicity of threats to the achievement of the 17 SDGs.
There is the need to provide quality infrastructure for quality education, health care, WASH and other basic necessities in slums if Ghana is to achieve the SDGs.
Ghana’s 1.7 million housing deficit can be addressed if concerted efforts are made to upgrade the housing system in slums.