Sunday, 22 February 2015

Worst Cities in the World?

I recently discovered a report from the Economist global “liveability” study. The report listed the world's top 10 cities to live, and the 10 worst. Apparently, they base the study on how 'tolerable' it is to live in a particular place given crime levels, threat of conflict, quality of medical care, levels of censorship, temperature, schools and transport links.

I always approach the ‘worst list’ with a little apprehension. Will Freetown be included? Sincerely hope not. Not against that criteria. We all moan about Freetown. Every single day. We feel entitled. The Economist? They probably popped over for a couple of days, the sort of folk who’d moan there was no Wi-Fi in the Garden of Eden.

Anyway, happy to see no Freetown. However, 5 African cities did fly the flag. Three from West Africa. Abidjan, Doula & Lagos. The worst city overall? Port Moresby. Been there a few times, pretty awful. No arguments from me...
















Come on though… how on earth can Damascus not be included? What about Juba? Kabul? Tripoli? Milton Keynes? Mogadishu? What about Basingstoke? Karachi?

And how is Abidjan in that list? I like the city a lot...

The best cities? Unsurprisingly, mostly in Canada & Australia. How can London not be near the top? Paris? What about Norwich?

I moved apartment last week. Only 2 miles away but to another world on Spur Loop. No setting mousetraps every evening. No more cockroaches. Fewer electricity / generator problems. No more, ‘the water bowser hasn’t turned up'. Rigsby, as bad as you were, I'm going to miss you. I’ve now inherited joint landlords. Perhaps not the most charismatic of fellows; but hey, let’s give the Chuckle Brothers a chance.


Spur Loop is a fine road surface, smooth as a baby’s bottom, relatively speaking when compared to elsewhere in Freetown. Many are as rough as my Mother-in-Laws bum, probably. I have to be careful with the wording, the last post remains with her solicitor.

I’ve also received ‘fan mail’ from my neighbour, who pointed out that the ‘tight-arsed Scottish neighbour’ quip in the last post, should have been hyphenated when used as an offensive adjective. Sorted. Taggart also mentioned possible defamation of character and his solicitor and the potential impact on his career as a ‘Meals on Wheels’ delivery driver within our local community.

I’ve mentioned Graham Greene before. His most acclaimed book was written in Sierra Leone, ‘The Heart of the Matter’. He first came to Sierra Leone in 1933 with his cousin, Barbara Greene. He set off from Freetown for his travelogue to Liberia, ‘Journeys Without Maps’. Greene later made a return visit in 1968. He said Freetown was a place for failures. Harsh? True? He actually wrote, “A home from home for men who had not encountered success at any turn of the long road and who no longer expected.” Greene was considered a great writer. ‘The Honorary Consul’ & ‘Our Man in Havana’ were among his other books...

Many British Army officers were inspired by Greene and wrote their own versions of his classic book. Memorable efforts such as, 'Clueless with a Map', 'Which Way Round is the Map', and unforgettably 'Journeys With No Idea'.  

… to more serious matters. The Ebola gains continue. However, perhaps flat lining just now. Cases are down nearly 90%. It was always likely the last 10% would be the most difficult. Sierra Leone remains the most affected but improvement is everywhere. Strange how 11 new cases in a day and 6 dead is positive? Life in Africa is sadly cheap. Was it Lenin who said, one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.

Remember the hysteria in the US last year after a couple of reported cases. Remember WHO & CDC competing for the worse worse case scenario award. The people who made those dire predictions should be held to account. Businesses folded. Economies devastated. Many expatriates and foreign investors fled. Most airlines stopped flying completely unnecessarily. Why? Fear of fear itself and crisis management by social media. We now have only one direct flight remaining to Europe. And, let’s face it, who wants to fly to Belgium? Steady on… I do in early April… home to UK for Easter.

The good news is the crisis is largely past. There will undoubtedly be unevenness in the recovery as flare-ups occur. There’s a slight blip right now, particularly in Freetown. Nothing like before. For the past 2 - 3 weeks the figures have been mostly single digits. We are now seeing some days back in the teens (like today), but we’re still trending downwards.

Here’s a sobering stat, 5,692 children in Sierra Leone have lost one parent, and 2,276 both parents. The devastation left behind is incredible. Recovery in so many aspects will be long. I hope the international community remain fully committed.

With this in mind the Food Basket Appeal is shifting focus. Schools have been closed since last July. They are scheduled to begin reopening in third week March. A fine lady, who once temped for me, helps in a registered organisation, ‘Save the Needy Sierra Leone’. The FBA will donate Le 5m (~$1,000) of our remaining fund. We'll help schools along the peninsula, southeast of Freetown.

The money will help towards text books, exercise books, school supplies (pens, pencils etc.) & uniforms. ‘Save the Needy’ receives no donor funding, but raise money from local fundraising events. There will be 8 schools involved. I’ll list them next post and find time, along with the divas, to visit soon.

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