Spring 2015

Infrastructure is Key

by Melissa Leonard

I recently read an article about a girls boarding school in Kenya. Sleeping at the school was necessary because it was unsafe for the students to walk to the school otherwise. The girls that attended the school, prior to boarding there, had  stories of rape and battering as they had attempted to commute on foot to school. Their tragic stories demonstrate how important freedom and safety is in eliminating poverty.

Building schools to educate people is a vital step in creating opportunity.  Adult illiteracy abounds where the poor have severe restrictions to their access of knowledge, information and news. Not to mention restrictions on other basic human rights, such as political participation. Schools play an important role in creating a capable population. If children cannot get to schools safely, it does not matter how many schools we build.

In the same article, three female volunteers talked about their experience visiting a rural medical centre and orphanage. In a larger nearby town there was a hospital built by international organizations. However, this rural hospital, despite some international funding, was mostly run by a few local people. This dedicated staff spent their lives helping people who could not get to the bigger hospital. The girls were shocked by the huge line-up of people who had staggered to the clinic.

Every day, the rural hospital saved the lives of people who were too sick or too poor to get to the bigger hospital. This is another vivid example that although building hospitals is great, for optimal use of these hospitals, the issue of accessibility is paramount.

These two stories illustrate that in order for education and health care to flourish, the building blocks of security, law enforcement and transportation cannot be ignored. The infrastructure of a society is connected to the success of its public services. So, it is essential to explore the potential barriers to the delivery of these essential services in order to ensure that they are utilized to their maximum capabilities.