Informo | Letter from Africa: In defence of aid workers' lives of luxury

Letter from Africa: In defence of aid workers' lives of luxury

In our series of letters from African writers, Ghanaian journalist Elizabeth Ohene reflects on her interactions with aid agencies in crisis zones. At my age, every new event sends my mind reeling back into the past. Not surprising, therefore, that the ongoing Oxfam scandal has sent me thinking of past events. When the story first broke that Oxfam workers had "used prostitutes and held sex parties" in Haiti, I must confess, I was a touch underwhelmed. I had never imagined charity workers had taken vows of celibacy or were saints. If you have reported around the African continent as I have done, you know that charity workers come with the territory. Where there is trouble, or crisis, there would be reporters and there would be charity workers. No, I have no stories of sex orgies between foreign correspondents and charity workers on the field to recount. What I did notice was they usually lived in the choicest neighbourhoods and had impressive vehicles. They often had better conditions in the hardship posts than when they were at their home stations. Mary Beard, a British TV presenter and Cambridge University classics lecturer, had obviously never seen aid workers in the field when she wondered in her tweet if it was possible to "sustain civilised values in a disaster zone". But I did not begrudge them. After all, diplomats also tended to live well wherever they were sent, and I took the view aid workers deserved it so they could take care of people in distress. My expectations from aid workers were probably different from what their current critics seem to expect. Those that I met tended to be knowledgeable and very hard-working people. They made it their business to learn about the countries they were posted to and, as a result, were often good sources of information.

142 | 2018-03-12 | World | Ghana

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