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The Northern Regions Are Still Poverty Stricken, United Nations Development Program Report Reveals

The United Nations Development Program’s 2018 report on the northern regions of Ghana which was launched at the University of Development Studies in Tamale last week was as instructive and as it was an eye-opener.

In a nutshell, the report surmised that all was still not well with the northern regions. It highlighted the challenges that still plague the regions, paramount among them being poverty and the lack of access to healthcare and education.

Though these problems have been extensively researched and documented in prior reports and are widely known to policy makers in Accra, the fact that the UNDP report found it compelling to once again draw the attention of Ghanaian authorities to these nagging headaches, perennial problems, means one thing and one thing only and that is: despite the huge amounts of money and efforts thrown over the years into finding permanent solutions to the hydra-headed challenges facing the northern regions, life in these parts of Ghana is still an immense struggle to survive.

The UNDP’s report is not exaggerating facts here. Anyone who doubts the contents of the report should go on a fact-finding mission through the outlying areas of the three regional capitals, Tamale, Bolgatanga and Wa.  The results will shock and stun whoever decides to embark on the mission and the conclusion will be crystal clear; it is a hardscrabble existence in the rural areas of the three northern regions.

When considering the reasons why the north is still stagnant even as the rest of the country progresses, it is imperative that we look at some historical facts. The northern regions have always been an afterthought for many Ghanaian administrations beginning with the British colonialists, who paid scant attention to the needs of the regions except to tap them for labor to work the gold mines and cocoa farms in the southern regions.

Post-independence Ghanaian administrations, sadly, took a page from the British policy handbook and continue to neglect the northern regions. To demonstrate that they were truly committed to progress in the north, these governments created regional development corporations and other agencies ostensibly to spearhead development efforts in the regions. And, we all know what these agencies turned out to be—cesspools of corruption and greed.

Foreign and domestic investments in the regions have been sporadic over the years. Making matters worse and the plight of northerners more pathetic is the absence of manufacturing industries in the regions. As a direct consequence of these developments, the northern regions suffer disproportionately from high unemployment than any other region.

Healthcare and education in the northern regions are still light years away from what is obtained in other parts of the country. There is no argument here; doctors and teachers for some strange reason find postings to the regions to be punitive, a sort of punishment from higher ups.

The report is by no means an indictment of past and current Ghanaian administrations. Instead, it is a call to action. However, it remains to be seen if the starched bureaucrats in Accra and their partners in the three northern regions would strap on their boots and go to work creating permanent solutions to the problems that have, in more ways than one, been impediments to the overall development of the northern regions.

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