For some time now the OAIC has tried to look at the issue of poverty and how the Millenium Development Goals fit into the entire picture of effective service delivery to eradicate poverty across Africa and moreso within the AIC’s ( African Instituted Churches) across the continent.
The General Secretary of the OAIC Reverend Nicta Lubaale states that for a while now, MDG’s have become the song of all and sundry but looking closely at issues, it is worth noting that service delivery is the basis for better livelihoods. That poor service delivery had made a lot of people to lead deplorable lives and there was need to perceive things from a different perspective.
“ We see deaths of women, children and up to half a million deaths of infants in the East African region below the age of five and this is heartbreaking. It is actually sinful. The fact that we lose over 7,000 women annually in Kenya during child birth, people leading undignified lives is a bad thing and there is need to bring transformational change in service delivery in the country.” Stated the Reverend.
He states that the basic social services in the East African region needed transformation as the statistics clearly pointed out to a bigger problem if measures are not taken care to avert future misgivings. Gathering from statistics in the last four years in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, cases of many preventable deaths that could be dealt with are still glaring at us and yet they can be dealt with proper services provided for the populace.
According to the United Nations statistics across the board, Children’s mortality rates per every 1000 children was a reason to put government in check and ensure that they provide the required services. In Kenya 84% of children under the age of 5 pass on, while in Tanzania the number stands at 108 while in Uganda 128 die. The implication of the statistics is that every year Kenya looses 184,000 children below 5 years, Tanzania 188, 000 while Uganda 124,000. That is nearly half a million children under the age of five die in the region.
The maternal mortality per 100,000 is heartbreaking. In Kenya 560 mothers succumb, in Tanzania 550, while in Uganda, 1100 per 100,000 women die while giving birth which is unacceptable.
Under nourishment issues that are rarely highlighted indicates that Children facing the condition in Kenya stand at 31%, in 34% in Tanzania and 21% in Uganda. Access to basic education is improving in the region with progress being made in Kenya indicating that 74% are able to access the education, in Tanzania 73% while in Uganda 82 %. Between 2005 and 2007, 11.2 million people were undernourished in the country even before the food crisis in Kenya, 13.7 million in Tanzania and 6.1 million in Uganda.
In 2008, saw 7,900 mothers die in Kenya, 14,000 in Tanzania while Uganda had 6,300 die. That makes approximately 30,000 mothers dying annually across the region.
Reverend Nicta while addressing church leaders from the East African region noted that the church cannot continue to accept the abnormal as normal and the church needs to stand up and be counted as they advocate for better service delivery in their various countries. There is need to question theology and ask difficult questions.
“What do we say to the people when we go to bury the dead mothers? How come God calls more Africans than the Swedish? What about the rest of the world? Most of the deplorable cases reported originate from the Sub-Saharan Africa region. So where are we going wrong?” he pondered.
“There is need to interrogate these issues, not as someone else’s’ project, but as a responsibility for all of us,” he added.
The United Nations Millenium Campaign (UNMC) officials who were present at workshop in CORAT were quite impressed with the how the church in the east African region was strategizing on ensuring that they lobby for proper service delivery in their various countries.
They implored on the church leaders to ensure that working with the communities should be an everyday day activity that should be geared towards ensuring that faith is renewed and transformation of communities is largely experienced. They noted that for any meaningful difference to be experienced, such fora should be organised more frequently across Africa and the church leaders should ensure that they organise themselves so that they can engage political leaders, and ensure there is a responsive leadership and thus effective transformational governance.
Charles Abugure from The UNMC shared a touching story in the early 1980’s that saw him lose a child due to poverty. Many participants in the workshop could relate to the poverty situation as they had seen people die not of natural circumstances but rather out of poverty or sheer ignorance.
“I had my first child in 1981 when I was still in school. As good catholic children, we did not resort to abortion. I later resumed school and my child was very popular as I used to her to class. At one time she had diarrhoea and I rushed her to hospital. During that time in Ghana, the hospitals were in deplorable conditions after Kwame Nkruamah (1966) had been overthrown and everything was in shambles. We waited for 48 hours for her to get the drip for water. I did not have any money and considering the fact that I was dependent on a Dutch Catholic priest who at the time was in a remote village it was a sad situation. By the time he came back, it was too late and her veins had collapsed,” he narrated.
For Charles the experience of losing a child at that tender age was a firsthand experience of poverty. “It’s not a story told by others, I feel it and I know about it. It is not something I read, it is something I grew up with and the thought never leaves me,” he stated.
Mr. Abugure was born two years after Ghana got independence and at that time the hope of many of the people after Independence was hope and expectations on how to tackle the three evils of eradicating abject poverty, hunger and disease.
He recalls that the closest school he went to was 150 miles away. That at that time when they saw a caterpillar excavate the soils through the village, as small children they would assemble and watch in awe. During such gatherings, they learnt the national anthem.
Forms of communication then was done is an interesting manner as all the roofs in the houses were flat and in the evenings they would lie on top because it was too hot and pass messages by shouting to the next household. “At 6 p.m everyone was in the roofs and when the traditional chiefs would announce something and this would be replicated in every household. Any person who got the information and did not show up for the meeting would be fined a goat,” he narrated.
Some of the challenges earlier on was Bilharzia as the young boys would get it after swimming in muddled rivers. He remembers instances where they would urinate blood, they were given medication, but as boys will always be boys, they would go back to the river.
He grew up associating the experiences back then to the public service. The founding fathers of most African states had common issues to tackle and the slogans were similar.
The trouble is that the issues they had promised to deal with in the first 10 years after independence, was disoriented and the people charges with entrusting that change happened became selfish and were just thinking about themselves and their families.
It became apparent that society had become unequal, going to school was a privilege, and people began hating each other. The people charged with governing now thought that driving big cars and showing people how wealthy one is was a good thing. How was this supposed to eradicate poverty in the region?
A participant in the workshop noted that the church had erred by putting too much focus on the spiritual matters forgetting the systems. That the church was required to not just teach and preach but ensure that people do not die of hunger and other misgivings in the society do not just pass unmentioned.
Churches need to change their way of dealing with issues and stop compromising with the government as it become a broker rather than fulfilling its prophetic role.
Stewardship and Integrity are some of the issues that shall be discussed during the three way workshop. The Executive Director for Research and Training at CORAT (Christian Organizations Research Advisory Trust Of Africa) Dr. William CORAT says that for the 37 years that the organization in existence, they have been able to train over 15,000 leaders throughout Africa as an ecumenical organization, they have been able to encompass many churches seeking to train them on leadership and ensure that they are examples to be emulated and not speak with mouths that are full.
Kristine Kaaber Pors from the Danish Mission Council, states that the different churches gathered at CORAT was an opportunity for them to be inspired as they seek skills on advocacy. The Danish mission is an umbrella organization that seeks to help bring meaningful development in Africa.
By: Fiona Imbali OAIC Communications