Ghana’s “Sodom and Gomorrah”

To mark the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, GLOBAL SISTERS REPORT, a project of the National Catholic Reporter, has begun a special series about how trash is managed in the world and how religious sisters are helping people affected by landfills.

Laudato Si - Landfill - Large

On 13 June 2016, the series began with a compelling look at life in one of Ghana’s largest slums, Old Fadama, known to outsiders as ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, believing the slum to be the dwelling place of thieves, harlots and heroin addicts.

The reality, however, is very different for the 100,000 residents, mainly refugees from the northern territories, who have been abandoned entirely by the Ghanaian authorities on the basis that the slum is illegal, leaving the community under constant threat of eviction and bulldozing.

Old Fadama has no schools, no community centres and no clinics. It does have an Irish missionary sister and an Indian priest who work closely with the people, striving to witness to God’s love and compassion for the poor.

“You can make harsh judgements about these people, but when you get into the families and see their struggles just to get to the very basics of survival, you start to understand,” Sr. Eileen McGrath, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, told Global Sisters. “They don’t need pity. They need schools.”

Old Fadama,” the article states, “embodies a poverty hard to comprehend from the outside. You don’t buy a tube of toothpaste, because that’s too expensive, but you buy a squirt of toothpaste each day. You don’t buy a costly nail clipper, but someone has a business to walk around and cut people’s nails for a few cents.”

Old Fadama developed alongside the Agbogbloshie e-waste market, which increasingly became the dumping ground for all kinds of electronic waste, including waste shipped to Africa from Europe and Japan. The residents of Old Fadama have turned the dump into a recycling industry, breaking apart discarded computers and all kinds of electronic goods, stripping them of reusable components and metals.

Abdallah Alhassan, a 27-year-old leader of a slum advocacy group, told Global Sisters that Agbogbloshie “is an intricate economy of buying, selling, trading and marketing that supports thousands of people.” It is yet another example of the ingenuity of the masses of humanity, struggling to survive in the face of death.

The SMA and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles (OLAs) have worked in Ghana since the early 1880. In March 1884 the OLA Sisters opened the first Catholic School for Girls in Elmina, Ghana. The OLAs commitment to the advancement of women in Ghana and Africa continues to this day.

To read the entire Global Sisters article, click here:

To learn about the work of our OLA sisters in Ghana and Africa, click here: