President Koroma Donates $100,000 to Haiti as
Poverty Rises in Sierra Leone
Abdul R Thomas
Editor - The Sierra Leone Telegraph
21 January 2010
Sierra Leone is ranked as one of the three poorest
nations in the world. But in the wake of a
catastrophic earthquake, of epic proportion in Haiti
and Sierra Leone’s massive budget deficit, President
Koroma of Sierra Leone has somehow managed to find
$100,000, which he has donated to the people of
Haiti through the UN Office in Freetown.
This act of benevolence by the President has sparked
controversy. Some Sierra Leoneans are asking whether
this is misplaced philanthropy, or an enlightened
self-interest. Either way, there are many Sierra
Leoneans who feel let down and angered by the
President’s decision, as increased taxation (the new
Goods and Services Tax) and growing poverty,
threatens the country’s economic stability.
But supporters of the government are asserting that
“for Sierra Leone to be taken seriously by the
international community, it has to transform itself
from a beggar nation, to a donor nation ready to
help the less unfortunate countries around the
globe. In sending the money to help Haiti, President
Koroma is leading our country to a leadership path,
and that is something we need to pursue.” (Cocorioko
News – 21 January 2010).
Since news of the earthquake broke on January 12,
2010, every citizen of the world - with a tinge of
moral fibre and humanity - has been emotionally
touched, as death toll exceeds 200,000, with two
million people now left homeless.
With a magnitude of 7.0 and its epicentre spanning a
distance of 16 miles west of the capital -
Port-au-Prince - much of the city’s infrastructure
has been destroyed, including the Presidential
palace, Parliament and many other important economic
and social structures - businesses, hospitals and
Haiti is regarded as the poorest nation in the
Western hemisphere, with a GDP per capita of US 790
Dollar - about $2 per person per day, compared to
the average Sierra Leonean earning less than US 50
Cents a day.
Out of 182 countries in the United Nations Human
Development Index, Haiti ranked 149th, whilst Sierra
Leone languished at the bottom. Haiti has a 50%
literacy rate compared to Sierra Leone’s 30%.
Like Sierra Leone, Haiti has consistently ranked
among the most corrupt countries in the world, on
the Corruption Perceptions Index, with international
aid donors contributing about 40% of both nations’
The response of the world to the cry for help from
the people of Haiti has been more than encouraging.
It is estimated that a total of US $800 Million has
been pledged by Europe, China and the USA, for
immediate emergency support and reconstruction work.
There are 9,000 UN troops in Haiti helping with the
relief efforts. The USA is committing thousands of
marines and logistical support. The world’s
humanitarian organisations have all arrived in Haiti
to help with saving the lives of those affected.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has announced it is
sending $2.5m (£1.5m) in emergency aid, to assist
the people of Haiti. But this gesture has come with
much criticism from inside the Democratic Republic
Citizens of Congo are arguing that after years of
brutal civil war, which is still raging in the east
of the country, millions of their people live in
poverty. The country depends on foreign aid and
civil servants frequently go unpaid.
Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade has offered free
land to Haitians who want to "return" to Africa,
following the devastation caused by the earthquake.
With massive humanitarian support and help, now
pouring in from every corner of the world, you may
be forgiven, if you are a resident of one of Sierra
Leone’s poverty stricken communities in the capital
Freetown, to suggest that Haiti does not need
$100,000 from another poverty stricken nation that
is full of man-made emergency disaster zones.
Take a look at these pictures (left
and below) of the Kroo Bay community
in Freetown, and you will see why some
Sierra Leoneans feel incensed and
outrage at the decision of President
Koroma to donate US $100,000 to Haiti.
Charity begins at home, they say.
Kroo Bay is a man-made disaster zone; a
sprawling slum filled with rubbish and
filth. It is home to more than 10,000
people living in appalling rickety
shanty structures, made from discarded
metal, sticks, rubbish and mud. The
people of Kroo Bay are amongst the
poorest in Sierra Leone, living side by
side with pigs - competing for survival,
with the water used as open sewer.
Interviewed by the BBC recently, some of the people of
Kroo Bay had this to say: “We have so many problems
– shanty houses and the flooding are the most
pressing. When we have rains and high tide at the
same time, the flooding goes up to waist-height.”
says Mohamed Kargbo, 54, secretary of the Kroo Bay
Abdul Sankoh, 38, lives in Kroo Bay with
his wife and eight children. In order to
scrape a living, he sells bags of coal
when he can and makes 80 US cents per
bag. He might sell 100 bags in three
Sankoh says: “I live here because I have
no money,” referring to his ‘pan body’
house, made from metal wrapped around
sticks dug into the ground. “I’m
penniless. I’m not happy about living
here because the situation is so very
Safiata Jalloh, 24, lives in the slum
with her husband and two children. She
is collecting buckets of dirt from the
seabed to make the floor of her shanty
house, for which she has to pay rent of
20,000 Leones ($8) a month. During the
heavy rains, her family fills 10 bags
with sand and dirt to try to protect
themselves against the floods.
A Save the Children survey found all the
children had respiratory problems such
as pneumonia and bronchiolitis, as well
as a high incidence of malaria, leprosy,
chicken pox and grave diarrhoeal
The decision of President Koroma to donate US
$100,000 to Haiti has raised many questions with
respect to governance, probity, accountability and
transparency. Speaking to a senior member of the
opposition (under anonymity), ‘this act by the
President is impeachable’ he says.
The President is hoping to raise Le1.4
Trillion though taxation, exports
revenue and the international Donors
have promised to contribute US $300
Million. But with the 2010 Government
Budget running at Le1.5 Trillion, there
is a huge shortfall in revenue that the
President has to find.
$100,000 may be a drop in the ocean in
the context of the mammoth task facing
the Haitians, but for the people of Kroo
Bay – it could save lives. Did this
money come from a Government’s
Was there a Contingency Fund provided
for in the Government’s 2010 Budget,
which was presented to the Parliament of
Sierra Leone in December 2009 - if so,
what was that contingency to be spent
If the US $100,000 did not come from a
Contingency Fund, which budget heading
did it come from?
How would this US $100,000 gift aid to Haiti, now
affect government’s effort in tackling abject
poverty, combat disease, lower the obscene rate of
child and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone?
While supporters of the President’s
decision argue that the US $100,000
donor aid to Haiti was a humanitarian
gesture, offered to a brother in need,
the rest of the world watches as the
people of Kroo Bay die a slow death.
Is President Koroma’s decision a
misplaced act of philanthropy, or an
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