Friday, February 29, 2008

ECOWAS States to Link up by Rail (Back Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah

THE Economic Commission of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Secretariat has planned a project to link countries in the sub-region by a rail network.
Towards that end, the Secretariat has appointed consultants to do a feasibility study to develop a railway system to link the member countries.
The project is borne out of the Commission’s desire to connect countries in the sub-region with each other by a railway network towards cheaper and easier means of transporting cargo from the ports to the hinterlands.
This was made known by the Minister of Harbours and Railways, Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi, in a speech read on his behalf by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Mr Brain Adomako, at the opening of the 6th Inter-modal Africa 2008 Conference and Exhibition held in Accra yesterday for stakeholders in the maritime transport in Africa.
According to the minister, as part of the desire of the government of Ghana to open the hinterlands, it had plans to develop the railway system to the northern part and the Inland Port Project at Boankra in the Ashanti Region.
The neighbouring countries of Ivory Coast, Togo and Nigeria, as well as the landlocked countries of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, use the ports of Ghana for the transportation of their containers.
The two-day programme, which has participants and exhibitors from countries in Africa, has the objective of helping people in the maritime transportation industry to exchange ideas, knowledge and experience and also promote links and contacts among maritime communities for further co-operation and possible mergers in the future.
On display at the exhibition mounted at the foyer of the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) were modern equipment, documents and logistics used in the port industry.
Prof Ameyaw Akumfi said in their desire to develop transport modes in the port industry in the sub-region, stakeholders must acknowledge the fact that competition between the modes had tended to produce transportation system that was segmented and integrated.
He therefore called for integration that permitted the issuance of single document for transaction to reduce cost.
He called on freight forwarders to form partnerships with shipping companies, adding that shippers should also establish logistic platforms in their respective countries and also form intra-regional organisations to promote Inter-modal systems to enhance the delivery of cargo through the ports in Africa.
Inter-modal transportation involves the transportation of freight in containers or vehicles using multiple modes of transportation such as rail, ship and trucks without any handling of the freight itself when changing the modes.
In his welcoming address, the Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Mr Ben Owusu Mensah, said the authority was putting in place strategic structures to ensure quick dispatch of cargo and vessels through the Port of Tema and ultimately attract more cargo through the port, thereby making the Tema Port the true gateway to the West African sub-region.
He said currently, about 85 per cent of projects to improve on the activities of the port had been completed and that with the exception of the Landlord Port Bill, which was still under consideration, GPHA had completed all the strategic action plans it was mandated to undertake under the Gateway Programme.
In an interview, the Human Resource Manager of the GPHA, Mr Abraham Mensah, said so far, about 300 participants had registered for the event which was organised by Transport Events Management of Malaysia, and stated that the conference, organised on rotational basis, was last held in Namibia in 2007.
He said Ghana stood to benefit from the event as some of the participants who toured the Tema Port on Wednesday were likely to invest in the country in the area of stevedoring activities, warehousing and port equipment hiring services, among others.
In his opening remark as the Chairman of a first discussion session on the theme, “The Future of Global Trade and the Economy: Keeping up with the Accelerated Growth and Containerised Freight”, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Shippers Council, Mr Kofi Mbiah, said the era of containerisation had revealed great possibilities and opportunities, as well as threats for the industry, which needed to be discussed.
He observed that although there were worries about trade agreements between developed and developing countries, these trade agreements were encouraging many countries to increase their output and venture into the production of non-traditional items.
“New discovery of natural resources and the demand for technology to manage and control them will continue to boost international trade,” he pointed.

'Help Combat Effects of Climate Change' (Page 31)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Naa Lartiokor Lartey

THE National Climate Change Focal Person at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr William Agyemang-Bonsu, has called on the health sector to put defensive measures in place to combat the effects of climate change on human health.
He said research indicated that climate change had devastating consequences, adding that disasters such as wildfires, droughts, floods and diseases stemming from climate change posed fundamental threat to human well-being and must be well managed.
At the first planning committee meeting for this year’s World Health Day, Mr Agyemang-Bonsu said climate shift would bring changes to the pattern of infectious diseases in addition to poor food yields and loss of people’s livelihoods.
The theme for this year’s celebration, which falls on April 7, is “Protecting Health From Climate Change”. It was selected by the WHO in view of the growing threats climate change presents to international security.
The objective is to raise awareness on the dangers posed by climate variability and change to sensitise and foster greater collaboration among stakeholders on the health implications of climate change.
Climate Change is the change in the atmosphere over a time period that ranges from decades to centuries. The term refers to both natural and human-induced changes.
Mr Agyemang-Bonsu noted that although changes occurred in the climate because of some natural phenomenon, human activities such as bush burning, production of charcoal, burning of gasoline by drivers and some industrial activities, produced greenhouse gases which prevented radiation from getting back into the atmosphere thereby causing heat.
He said research conducted on climate change and health of people at the Out Patients Department (OPD) of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi revealed that the health of Ghanaians would be negatively affected if nothing was done to reduce the effects.
He said diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhoea, guinea worm, cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM) were seen to be highly influenced by drought, excessive rainfall or heat.
Mr Agyemang-Bonsu said since nothing could make the conditions of the atmosphere change in the next few years, there was the need for people the world over, to appreciate the effects and adapt to them.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Development Geo-information Services, Dr Emmanuel Amamoo-Otchere, said there was the need for policy makers to tackle the issue of sanitation if they sincerely wanted to check climate change.
He also pointed out that a lot would be done if the underlying factors such as poverty, which forced people to indulge in activities which degraded the environment, was looked at and solution found to them.
The Director of Public Health of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Joseph Amankwah, called on experts with knowledge on issues on climate change to provide the needed information to health personnel to enable them to play their role effectively.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Insurance Scheme to Issue Computerised ID Cards (Back Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
SUBSCRIBERS to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) will from the middle of this year acquire new identification (ID) cards to enable them to access health care at all accredited facilities anywhere in the country.
Presently, insured members of the scheme could access services only at the various health care facilities which have contracts with the individual District Mutual Health Insurance Schemes (DMHIS).
A Communications Officer of the National Health Insurance Council (NHIC), Mr Kwasi Acquah, told the Daily Graphic in Accra that work on a computerised system to produce the new cards was almost complete.
He said after the introduction of the new cards, every insured person could attend hospital at any accredited health facility without paying from his or her pocket instead of the current system where people had access to only health care facilities where their individual schemes had arrangements with.
“With the new system, subscribers will have NHIS ID cards but not ID cards from individual schemes,” he pointed out.
He explained that with the introduction of the new cards, individuals would need a maximum of two weeks to receive their cards after registration instead of the long period of time one needed to receive his or her card under the present system.
The issue of delays in acquiring identification cards (ID) after registering under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has been a big challenge facing the scheme, a situation which is discouraging some people from subscribing.
Mr Acquah said the new cards had a validity period of five years and described the new cards as portable and advantageous to both the schemes and the individuals, since they would help to check abuses.
Under the current system, an insured person has to go for a new card every year he or she renews subscription, a situation which many find difficult, since it could take months for one to receive the card to access facilities.
The PRO said the new computerised ID cards would have special security features, which included clearer and double pictures (one big and another small) and also unique numbers which allowed easy identification as to which region and district one registered in.
He said with the security features, it would be difficult to duplicate the new cards, adding that with clearer pictures, one would find it difficult to use another person’s ID card to access a health care facility as was allegedly being done currently.
In answer to a question, Mr Acquah said if one failed to pay the yearly premium within the five year-period, the subscriber’s name would automatically be deleted from the system until he resumed payment.
He explained that the cards would have magnetic swipes for easy checks when they were presented at a health care facility.
He said since the issue of the new cards was made public, many people had expressed interest and were asking for their early introduction, which to him was a positive sign.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pilot project on malaria control kicks off in April (Back Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Friday, February 22, 2008)
THE National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) will, in April this year, begin a pilot project on Indoor Residual Spray (IRS) in the Northern Region as part of the $17 million assistance offered by President George Bush to fight malaria in Ghana.
The IRS is the application of a long-acting insecticide on the walls and roofs of houses and domestic animal shelters in order to kill malaria-transmitting mosquitoes that land on those surfaces.
Speaking at a two-day media malaria advocacy workshop in Accra, a medical entomologist at the NMCP, Mrs Aba Baffoe-Wilmot, said the anopheles mosquitoes which transmitted malaria mostly stayed and attacked people indoors and so it was important to tackle them indoors.
The pilot project, which will cover part of the assistance under the President's Special Initiative (PSI) on Malaria, will cover 1,000 structures in eight selected districts in the Northern Region.
Mrs Baffoe-Wilmot said although the World Health Organisation (WHO) had recommended a number of chemicals to be used, including DDT, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) had been tasked to conduct research and come out with an appropriate chemical for the Ghanaian environment, since DDT could affect food crops.
Reports from the WHO indicates that IRS is one of the primary vector control interventions for reducing and interrupting malaria transmission.
In recent years, however, it has received relatively little attention. Recent data re-confirms the efficacy and effectiveness of IRS in malaria control in countries where it has been implemented well.
A Ghana News Agency (GNA) report on November 1, 2006 indicated that the incidence of malaria in Obuasi had drastically reduced since 2005 following the introduction of IRS.
It said from a high malaria incidence of over 13,000 cases per month in the Obuasi municipality, the figure took a nosedive to as low as 7,000 cases in September 2006 through the use of IRS by AngloGold Ashanti in Obuasi.
That was made known in Obuasi when Dr Joaquim Saweka, the WHO Country Representative in Ghana, called at the AngloGold Ashanti's Malaria Control Centre for West Africa to see the progress of work on the implementation of the IRS programme.
Touching on the NMCP's strategies to combat malaria, Mrs Baffoe-Wilmot said the programme was using multiple preventive strategies to fight malaria, including the use of insecticide-treated materials (ITMs) such as nets and curtains and also IRS, environmental management, protective clothing, case management, among others.
She said the IRS was part of the new integrated malaria vector management (IMVM) policy being implemented by the NMCP.
Answering questions, Mrs Baffoe-Wilmot said people could go back into their rooms after the chemicals used in spraying had dried up, adding that the chemicals could be effective between three and 12 months, depending on the composition.
She explained that the Northern Region was selected for the pilot project because of its unique rainfall pattern and also the high prevalence rate of the disease.
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite known as the Plasmodium genome and carried by the anopheles (female) mosquito. According to health experts, malaria is a persistent health problem and a leading cause of death among children, especially in Africa.
It is said to kill one child every 30 seconds, with more than a million deaths each year across the world, 90 per cent of such deaths occurring in Africa.
The majority of these deaths occur among children under five and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa because the clinical disease burden is especially high among these two groups as a result of immature and weakened immunity, respectively.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Prez Bush, Laura Interact with AGOA Exporters (page 49)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
President George W. Bush yesterday toured an exhibition mounted by eight Ghanaian exporters of the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA)-eligible products at the Accra International Trade Fair site as part of the his three-day official visit to Ghana.
Accompanying him were his wife, Laura, the US Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice, the US Ambassador to Ghana, Pamela Bridgwater, and other US officials. The group, which inspected the items on display, also witnessed demonstrations of how the products were made, such as weaving, carving, sewing and nut cracking.
AGOA is a trade preference programme in Africa which waives duties on thousands of products exported to the US. It is credited with fostering the growth of the apparel sector in several African countries, including Ghana, with duty-free cost advantage up to 33 per cent.
It also waives duties on such non-traditional exports as hand-crafted home decor, chocolate, processed shea beauty products and woven textiles. Some of these items were displayed at the export showcase in Accra yesterday.
The showcase was organised by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Aid To Artisans Ghana (ATAG), which assists makers of handicrafts in Ghana to come out with good products for export.
The eight companies which mounted the exhibition were the Cocoa Processing Company (CPC), Delata Ghana Limited, Ele Agbe, Naasakle, Oak Brook Limited, African Cashew Alliance, Global Mamas and Premium Exim Company Limited, which comprises Fritete African Works and Tekura Enterprises.
The team was taken round the stands by Mrs Bridget Kyerematen Darko of ATAG.
Present were the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, the Minister for Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development (PSD) and President’s Special Initiatives (PSIs), Mr Joe Baidoe-Ansah, the Minister for Chieftancy, Mr S. K. Boafo, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Freddie Blay, and a former Minister of Trade, Industry, PSD and PSI, Mr Alan Kyerematen.
The eight entrepreneurs whose items were showcased at the ceremony have all received training, technical assistance and trade show sponsorship from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) West Africa Trade Hub.
A press release from USAID in Accra indicated that the companies exported to major US buyers, namely, Pier 1, Target, Pierre Cardin, Ross Stores, Cost Plus World Market, the San Francisco Zoo, T.J. Maxx, Marshals, Ten Thousand Villages and Superior Uniforms Group.
It said in 2006, Ghana shipped a quarter of all exports to the US — US$45 million out of US$192 million — under AGOA.
The statement said Ghana now led West Africa in the export of textile and apparel to the US garment clusters which are groups of apparel factories which have created thousands of jobs and put Ghana on the industry map as a new source for manufactured clothing.
As part of the export products show, a mini-durbar of chiefs was organised by the Ministry of Chieftaincy, with three paramount chiefs and queens being invited from each of the 10 regions of the country. They were led by the President of the National of House of Chiefs, Odeneho Gyapong Ababio, who is also the Paramount Chief of the Sefwi Bekwai Traditional Area.
Also in attendance were some schoolchildren from the Garrison Junior High School and the Kotoka Basic Junior High School, both at the Burma Camp, who waved miniature US and Ghana flags and sang to entertain President Bush and his entourage.
President Bush, who attended the programme in a short-sleeved cream shirt, in contrast with the black suit he had worn during the morning session at the Castle, freely interacted with the entrepreneurs, the chiefs and schoolchildren.
At Ele Agbe’s stand, he tried his hands on a local method of extracting shea butter by pounding nuts in a mortar with a pestle.
The US President, who looked relaxed, moved freely among the people, danced and posed for a photograph with many people at the event.

Hb Meters for the Market (Page 47)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (February 18, 2008)

MANGEL Klicks Company Limited, a Ghanaian company which supplies pharmaceuticals, medical and laboratory materials, has brought into the country a number of portable haemoglobin testing meters to speed up the testing of haemoglobin levels.
Known as STAT-Site Hgb meter, the tool, which is battery operated and fits in the palm of an adult, has the capacity to operate for five years without maintenance.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mangel Klicks Company Limited, Mr Charles Kwamena Ackon, said the purpose of importing the meters was to help individuals and health care facilities to test haemoglobin level quickly without any difficulty.
Mr Ackon said testing with the meter was quick and easy and also reduced personnel training, adding that it was meant for improved performance and with a a single drop of fingerstick blood, the STAT-Site Hgb meter provided precise haemoglobin analysis in seconds for early treatment of patients.
Mr Ackon said the meters had already been tested by officials of the Ministry of Health (MOH) who purchased 100 pieces for a start.
He explained that the meters were to reduce time and other resources used in testing haemoglobin levels in laboratories and stated that since they used no electric power, they were cheaper and also needed less time to operate.
“It is meant to reduce the long queues and longer times spent at laboratories to get ones haemoglobin level tested,” he stressed.
Mr Ackon pointed out that the meters needed no reagents but just a drop of blood on a test card for accurate testing.
He also explained that one meter was sold for GH¢350 with additional batteries in addition to 100 pieces test cards which were also selling at GH¢200.
He said the meters needed no special temperature condition, adding that they could function anywhere including rural areas and by anybody who needed to have his or her haemoglobin tested.
He explained that there was the need for people to know what went on in their blood, since “what happens to the human body is a reflection of what is in the blood”.
He said in addition to health facilities, other groups of people who needed to acquire the meters were security agents who usually worked outside their homes and got injured because of their exercises, ambulance services, pregnant women, children and sickle cell patients.
He said availability of the meters would enable them to do quick tests when the need arose without going through the cumbersome routine at laboratories.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hundreds give thanks to God for successful Ghana 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008 — Centre Page

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Rebecca Quaicoe Duho
HUNDREDS of Ghanaians from all walks of life gathered at the Independence Square in Accra last Saturday to give thanks to God for seeing the nation through the successful hosting of the 26th Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
The service, which was organised by the Women’s Aglow International, was also used to honour the mothers of the players of the Black Stars.
In attendance were Ministers of State, ministers of the gospel, mothers of some of the Black Stars players, supporters unions, football fans and the general public who adorned themselves in the national colours of red, gold and green, with the Black Star.
Ministers who attended the programme were the Minister of State in charge of Education, Youth and Sports, Ms Elizabeth Ohene, the Deputy Minster of Education, Mr O.B. Amoah, the Minister of Aviation, Ms Gloria Akuffo, the Minister of Chieftancy Affairs, Mr S.K. Boafo, and the Deputy Minister of Harbours and Railways, Ms Sophia Horner-Sam.
Some government officials who were present were the President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), Mr Kwasi Nyantakyi, and the Chief Operating Officer of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the Ghana 2008, Mr Rex Magnus Danquah, both of whom danced and praised God for a successful tournament.
Music was provided by the Police Band and some Ghanaian musicians, notably Grace Ashy, who is well noted for singing in honour of the senior national team.
As the congregation sang, clapped and danced to the glory of God, some among them, including the mothers of some of the players, were seen doing the ‘kangaroo dance’ which featured prominently during the tournament.
The various supporters groups displayed their dancing skills as they danced in special ways unique to each group.
The President of the Women’s Aglow International, Mrs Emelia Boadi Dankwa, and the National Prayer Co-ordinator of the fellowship, Mrs Gifty Afenyi-Dadzie, on behalf of the fellowship presented gifts to the mothers of the players who were present.
The mothers present included Madam Mary Donkor, mother of the acting skipper, John Mensah; Madam Comfort Afua Amoate, the mother of the injured skipper, Stephen Appiah; Madam Cecilia Love Amoako, the mother of Baffour and Asamoah Gyan, and Ms Jennie Everett, the mother of Manuel Junior Agogo.
The rest were the mother of Richard and Laryea Kingson, Madam Mary Tsotso, Madam Aba Gyande, the mother of Michael Essien, and Hajia Kande, Sulley Ali Muntari’s mother.
Mrs Jane Acquah, the wife of the late former Chief Justice, was also present.
Also present were One Man Supporter, Mr Abraham Boakye, who is also the President of the Ghana Supporters Union, the President of the Women Supporters Union, Ms Freda Prempeh, Mr Edmund Ackah, the President of the Nation-wide Supporters Union, among others.
Addressing the gathering, Ms Elizabeth Ohene, a Minister of State at the Ministry of Education, who was the guest of honour, congratulated Women’s Aglow on their initiative, saying it was appropriate to give honour where it was due.
She said never in the history of the nation had the country been so united as it did during the 21 days of soccer, saying that the tournament also united the whole of Africa, sending a positive message to the international community.
She said although Ghana did not win the cup, as had been expected by all, the players made the country proud by playing their hearts out to capture the third place.
Ms Ohene said with determination and hard work, the country was able to overcome all obstacles that came its way during the preparatory stages of the organisation of the tournament.
She said although the tourism and hospitality industry did not cash in as much as was expected, the preparation in itself had afforded most hospitality industries to upgrade their facilities, as well as train more people in the industry to be more efficient and serviceable.
Speaking on behalf of the mothers of the players, Ms Everett thanked Women’s Aglow for the honour them.

Bush lands 'morrow for 3-day official visit

Monday, February 18, 2008 — Front Page

Story: Kofi Yeboah & Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE US Presidential Jet, the Air Force One, will touch down at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) at exactly 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, February 19, with President George Walker Bush on board to begin a three-day official visit to Ghana.
His wife, Laura, top American officials and about 80 journalists will be part of the presidential entourage.
The 36-hour visit by President Bush to Ghana will be the fourth leg of his five-nation African tour that has already taken him to Tanzania, Rwanda and Benin, with Liberia wrapping up the tour. It is the second by the American President to Africa.
George Bush’s first visit to Africa in 2003 took him to Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria.
Issues high on the agenda for discussion between President Bush and his host, President Kufuor, include poverty, HIV/AIDS, the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), African unity and regional security.
“This trip will be an opportunity for the President to review firsthand the progress made, since his last visit in 2003, in efforts to increase economic development and fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and other treatable diseases, as a result of the United States’ robust programmes in these areas,” a White House statement on the visit said.
The statement noted that President Bush would also hold discussions with his hosts about how the United States could help promote democratic reforms, respect for human rights, free trade, open investment regimes and economic opportunity across the continent.
Briefing journalists in Accra last Friday on President Bush’s itinerary, the Head of the Public Affairs Section at the US Embassy in Accra, Mr Chris Hodges, said President Bush would be welcomed at the Jubilee Lounge of the KIA on Tuesday evening.
He said most of President Bush’s engagements would be on Wednesday when he would meet President Kufuor at the Castle, Osu, after which the two Presidents would address a press conference at the Castle.
Mr Hodges said later in the day, President Bush would attend a luncheon with some selected members of the US Peace Corps, after which he would visit the Ghana International School in Accra to interact with the schoolchildren.
He said President Bush would also visit the Ghana International Trade Fair Centre to interact with a section of the private sector who had been exporting products to the US under the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and attend a State Dinner at the Banquet Hall in the evening.
Mr Hodges said Mrs Bush would also visit a primary school at Mallam, a suburb of Accra, in the morning to interact with the pupils and then visit the Maamobi Polyclinic, where the US government is undertaking a malaria control project, later in the afternoon.
The visit of the 43rd American President to Ghana in particular and Africa in general is very significant in many respects.
First, it comes at a time when America is initiating policies, unprecedented in the history of that country, to commit millions of dollars to support development initiatives in Africa and boost the economies of African countries.
Through AGOA, which opens up the American market to 10,000 products from Africa on quota-free and duty-free bases, and the MCA, which commits about US$5 billion to support various development projects in some developing countries, the Bush administration has re-defined America’s relations with Africa for the better.
In 2003, the US Congress approved $15 billion for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) but in November 2007 President Bush urged Congress to double the money for the global fight against AIDS to $30 billion over the next five years.
That campaign against HIV and AIDS is being undertaken in 120 countries, including 15 in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
According to the White House, as of the end of September 2007, 1.36 million people in those beneficiary countries had received anti-retroviral treatment under the initiative, which is aimed at averting infant infections by treating pregnant women.
“Doubling the funding for PEPFAR will provide treatment for 2.5 million people,” the White House believes.
Ghana has been a major beneficiary of America’s support to Africa in recent times, profiting immensely from the AGOA and MCA initiatives.
Another significance of the visit is that it strengthens diplomatic relations between Ghana and America, relations which have improved tremendously in recent times, exemplified by two official state visits to the US by President Kufuor in 2004 and 2006.
Since the two Presidents assumed office in 2001, they have met seven times at different occasions and places and President Bush’s State Visit to Ghana will be the eighth time the two will be meeting and the first in Ghana.
Political analysts believe that the growing relations between Ghana and the US, especially the profound confidence President Bush has developed in President Kufuor, is premised on the growth of democracy, good governance and the rule of law in Ghana.
The significance of President Bush’s visit to Ghana also lies in the fact that he and his host will end their two-term tenure in office in December this year, for which reason they are expected to share some notes on their stewardship.
Perhaps one significance of the visit that will leave fond memories on the minds of many Ghanaians is the fact that President Bush will be the second sitting American President ever to visit Ghana and, more admirably, the first to sleep in the country.
The first time a sitting American President ever visited Ghana was on March 23, 1998 when President William Jefferson Clinton paid a day’s visit to the country at the start of a historic six-nation African tour.
That visit lasted only 10 hours and President Clinton did not stay overnight. Nevertheless, it was most memorable and historic.
The blue and white Air Force One that flew in the 42nd American President touched down on the tarmac of the KIA at exactly 7:45 a.m. to a tumultuous welcome by an ecstatic crowd that had waited patiently to be part of that historic moment.
President Clinton, accompanied by his wife, Hillary, the Black American civil rights activist, Rev Jesse Jackson, and top US officials, was given a red carpet reception at the airport, amidst a colourful cultural display and a 21-gun salute, after which he and his host, Flt Lt J.J. Rawlings, were driven in the Cadillac limousine through some of the principal streets of Accra.
A large number of Ghanaians and foreigners who had lined up the streets waved miniature Ghana and US flags to cheer the two Presidents.
The two Presidents later held closed-door discussions at the Castle, Osu, on matters related to the strengthening of diplomatic relations between Ghana and the US.
President Clinton also had a private meeting with the staff of the US Embassy in Accra and the US Information Service.
One of the highlights of the visit was a durbar of chiefs from all over the country held at the Independence Square in Accra.
A large crowd, including foreigners from all walks of life, never imagined in the history of the country, converged on the Independence Square to witness the majestic dance of the chiefs in their palanquins and other performances, all enveloped in a colourful and rich Ghanaian culture.
President Clinton was reported to have declared later that in all his life his visit to Ghana was the most memorable, considering the warm reception he had been accorded.
But that was not the only memory the American President took away from Ghana on that visit. Indeed, he made a personal request to take along with him only two Ghanaian newspapers — the Daily Graphic, Ghana’s biggest selling newspaper, and the now defunct High Street Journal, an Accra-based private business newspaper.
Well-informed sources at the US Embassy in Accra said President Clinton gave specific instructions that his choice of quality Ghanaian newspapers should be put on his seat on Air Force One before departing Accra.

Prepare for Worst Weather - Expert ( Front Page-1b)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Saturday, February 16, 2008)
Ghanaian scientist, Dr Emmanuel Amamoo-Otchere, has predicted extreme weather conditions in the country this year as a result of global climatic changes.
An expert in Geographic Information Systems, Dr Amamoo-Otchere said in all the climatic conditions, Ghanaians must prepare for the worst scenario, such as torrential rains, excessive heat, as well as severe dry winds, so they could adapt to them when they came.
In an answer to a question as to why the weather had suddenly become so warm after a brief period of coldness, he said the condition was not peculiar to Ghana but that it was a global phenomenon caused by changes in the climate.
“When the weather becomes hot, it could be too hot, and when it is cold, it could be too cold. When it has to rain, it will rain torrentially, and when the weather is dry, it will be extremely dry,” he pointed out.
He warned of more disasters, such as floods and drought, which he said no one could prevent, adding, however, that they could be managed.
Dr Amamoo-Otchere, who is currently the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Development Geo-Information Services (DeGeoServ), prescribed interventions such as reforestation and a drastic reduction of carbon emission into the environment to reduce what he termed “the triggers of the change”.
He lamented, however, that in the short term, “nobody can do anything about the situation except to adapt for his or her own good”.
He explained that the earth's climate was dynamic and always changing through a natural cycle, noting that what the world was currently worried about was the fact that the changes occurring today had been fast-tracked because of man's activities.
Until his retirement last December, Dr Amamoo-Otchere was the head of the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Services (CERSGIS) at the University of Ghana, Legon. He is well remembered for the precision with which he forecast the eclipse of the sun which occurred in the country on March 29, 2006.
The renowned scientist observed that the climate had not been so harsh years ago, adding that now that mankind had found itself in such a serious situation, “we have to adapt”.
He explained that institutions and groups all over the world were trying hard to adopt coping mechanisms with programmes under “Climate Change and Adaptation”, adding that the World Bank was also working out a Climate Change Risk Management Programme and advising nations to employ it.
Dr Amamoo-Otchere said as a Ghanaian in that field, he had been invited to a workshop in Tanzania in March to deliberate on climate change and vulnerability, saying that “when the climate changes for the worst, it is always the vulnerable, such as women and children, who suffer”.
“When there is no water because of drought, it is either women or children who suffer, since they perform most of the household chores,” he pointed out.
Dr Amamoo-Otchere added that women and children again suffered when there were floods which increased the spread of malaria and water-borne diseases, adding that in such situations, medical bills also went up.
He said it was unfortunate that many of the rich nations did not care about the issue of climate change, since they believed they were rich enough to eliminate the effects of the change.
He said it was not strange that some parts of the country had already experienced rain this year, since the country was entering a transitional weather period.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Geographic Information System for Salt Industry Launched (Page 31)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Friday, February 15, 2008)
GHANA produces an average of 250,000 tonnes of salt per annum in spite of its potential to produce between 2.5 million and 3.0 million tonnes.
This is attributed partly to the lack of a database to assist both local and foreign investors in the industry to set high targets and to achieve them.
At the official launch of the Geographic Information System (GIS) for the Salt Industry in Ghana in Accra, the Minister of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development (PSD) and President’s Special Initiative (PSI), Mr Joe Baidoo-Ansah, said the government was interested in increased salt production in the country, since it promoted job creation and foreign exchange generation.
“It holds tremendous potential for job creation and foreign exchange generation for our development,” he observed.
Mr Baidoo-Ansah said since the inception of the PSI on salt, the government had undertaken various measures and interventions to address the issue of inefficient production methods, obsolete machinery and equipment, lack of capital, weak production infrastructure and lack of industry data information.
He pointed out that in its desire to further improve on the industry, the ministry contracted the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Services (CERSGIS) with funding from the United Nations Children and Education Fund (UNICEF) to establish the GIS to provide information portal for investors and also provide a database for the salt industry in the country.
The Trade Minister said the system would also provide contours on salt producing areas in Ghana, provide detailed information on salt located towns and also provide detailed pictorial presentation on salt industry in the country.
He expressed the hope that the right information which users were comfortable with, would be provided to enable them to made right decisions in their businesses.
A representative from UNICEF, Mr George Ahmed, said Ghana’s consumption of iodised salt, which rose to about 74 per cent in 2004, declined to about 54 per cent in 2006, and called on the authorities to take a look at that problem, since it had health implications.
He said to help in the production of the database under the GIS, the organisation supported the project with $30,000 and expressed the hope that it would improve salt production which many relied on.
In his presentation, the Chief Executive Officer of the Development Geo-Information Services (DeGeoServ), Dr Emmanuel Amamoo-Otchere, said there was the need for investors in the salt industry to study the geographical situation of their areas of operation, since natural phenomena, such as floods, could negatively affect their output.
He, therefore, called on the Ministry of Trade, Industry, PSD and PSI, to collaborate with the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), the Soil Research Institute and the Meteorological Service to provide the appropriate information for investors in the industry to avoid losses.
The acting Co-ordinator of PSI on Salt, Mr Andy Quarshie, pointed out that the GIS was capable of locating areas on the map where salt could be produced, adding that it would benefit investors in the industry.
The chairman for the function, who is also Chairman for the Interim Management Committee of the Songhor Salt Project, Mr Joseph William Biney, called for increase production of salt if the country would want to prevent importation of the commodity to support its petroleum production at the appropriate time.
A member of the National Salt Producers Association of Ghana, Mr Jacob Mintah, called on the experts to break down the information contained in the GIS to enable the ordinary salt producer to understand and benefit from it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ghana 2008 - A Successful Tournament (page 50)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
In spite of initial fears of problems in the organisation of the 26th Africa Cup of Nations, Ghana has successfully hosted the tournament to the admiration of all.
Just like what happened between July 1, and July 3, 2007, when the country hosted the African Union (AU) conference, visitors to the country at the just ended 26th MTN Africa Cup of Nations, held from January 20 to February 10, 2008, had something good to say about the country and its people.
The tournament ended so well that many foreign journalists who came expecting that there would be many setbacks were forced to settle on stories of fried pork displayed along the streets.
The Daily Graphic reported on Saturday, January 5, 2008 that $157.2 million had as the time been spent on the rehabilitation and construction of the four stadiums for the Ghana 2008 tournament. The amount was said to have exceeded the $152.1 million initially projected by $5.1 million.
The stadiums used for the tournament were the rehabilitated Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra and the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, and the newly constructed ones in Tamale and Sekondi.
Although the money involved in the projects is huge, one is yet to come across any complaints about the figure, a situation that gives us consolation that Ghanaians appreciate good things.
After the country had been cleared by both FIFA and CAF for the commencement of the game, Ghanaians went all out to show to the world that they too had arrived. Now with the tournament over, it is important to relive some of the experiences for the records.
One thing that came out clearly during the tournament was the high level of patriotism expressed by Ghanaians in support of the senior national team.
For the 21 days that the tournament went on, Ghanaians had the best of entertainment which many people still relish. The euphoria was great, so great that not even the climax of the country’s Golden Jubilee celebration on March 6, 2007 could rival it.
A look around our cities, towns, villages or scenes on television, displayed red, gold, green and the black star of the nation’s flag. Everywhere were T-shirts, caps, scarves, neck ties, bangles, mufflers, footwear, drinking cups, key holders and other paraphernalia all made in the national colours. It was really a nice scene.
That was why an elderly resident of Awoshie, a suburb of Accra, clapped loudly and said “never in my 60 and more years in life have I seen so many flags. I am happy to be alive today and proud to be a Ghanaian”.
Going back a bit, some of us remember how critical people were when we were left with some months to begin the tournament. Afraid that we might not be able to host a successful tournament, some people, especially journalists, kept both the government and the members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) on their toes to get the right things done. In fact, there were some who thought we should not have taken that responsibility in the first place.
But in the end, the day arrived and we had to start the game without our Captain, Stephen Appiah, because of a knee injury. Along the line, we had to lose our acting Captain, John Mensah ,through a red card at a crucial stage when we were to meet a strong football country like Cameroun. With all those challenges, we managed to grab bronze to the admiration of many.
Looking at events, one could conveniently say that the ordinary Ghanaian played an important role in the success of the event. We played our part so well that after the event the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mrs Oboshie Sai Cofie, and the acting Director of Public Affairs of the Ghana Police Service, DSP Kwasi Ofori, among other persons, commended Ghanaians for supporting the team and also keeping the peace.
Like some Ghanaians, I did not show much interest in the events leading to the tournament until I had the opportunity to visit the Ohene Djan Stadium for a programme on disaster management. From there, I realised that the days were getting closer and I began to make the necessary arrangement in my own small way to support the tournament by purchasing some paraphernalia for myself and others.
Tickets to watch the matches was not part of my plans. In fact, I would have rejected it if anybody had volunteered to give me any because I could not imagine myself sitting comfortably to watch a match that involves the national team.
To some of us, especially women, any ball directed to our goal posts meant a goal against us which must be stopped with screams. For that simple reason, some of us refused to watch such games anywhere except in the comfort of our own homes where one could scream as much as one’s voice could allow. In fact, I did not see any of the goals scored against us live. Not even one.
In a chat with some fans after the tournament, I got to know that many were those who, like me, had to watch the games standing so as to get out quickly when a ball moved towards our posts. Though we yearned to watch and applaud our team, our weak hearts did not allow that. We either had to cover our eyes or look away from the game.
In all these, one thing that came out strongly was our love for our players. From toddlers to the very old, names of our national players featured prominently in all that we said during the 21 days and after. Some of us were not surprised when an elderly man, known only as Nana, whose story was published in the Daily Graphic during the tournament, made a bold move to “dash” his granddaughter to Manuel Junior Agogo for a wife.
Many nearly had a heart attack when the Black Stars’ Captain, John Mensah, jumped and fell with his head down from the shoulders of the Nigerian Yakubu. Others broke into tears when he was shown the red card, and when a player booted Michael Essien in the tummy, some of us felt pains in our stomachs. When we saw Richard Kingson scream from a fall, we had to close our eyes and when Bafuor Gyan held his arm in pain after a nasty tackle from an Ivorian player, thousands of arms were involuntarily raised in imaginary pain.
When our boys lost to Cameroun and started weeping, many houses were turned into mourning grounds. In fact, the heart of the nation broke into pieces.
That was why football fans in Kumasi had earned so much praise for according the team a heroic welcome, which lifted the spirit of both the nation and the Stars to win. We saw the fans stand by them and cheer them up when they arrived for the game, and again when some of us saw the Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive, Madam Patricia Appiagyei, and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bantama, Madam Cecilia Dapaah, meet the team at the Kumasi Airport, we knew that the boys were in good hands.
It was worthy to see some fans stand in the rain while the team trained for the next encounter with the Elephants of La Cote d’Ivoire. No wonder the Black Stars scored their highest goals of four against two.
Can anyone fail to admire the excellent work done by our Stars? Did anybody miss how Essien handled Eto’o during the encounter with the Indomitable Loins? Can you recollect the decisive goals scored by Agogo? How about the powerful shots from Anthony Annan and Quincy Owusu Abayie? Did anybody take note of how seriously Hans Sarpei played all the matches? Did you observe the swiftness with which Draman moved on the field?
In spite of his ill luck, Asamoah Gyan played his heart out and his brother, Bafuor Gyan, was a delight to watch. Young Andre Dede Abedi reminded us of his father and even gave us more. For Richard Kingson, we considered him a “saviour”, and his brother Laryea, he showed so much strength on the field to the admiration of all.
When he did not play when we met the Camerounians, it became clear that our Captain, John Mensah, was really the Rock of Gibraltar. My man of the tournament, Sulley Ali Muntari, showed so much fellow feeling that I was surprised he was not the one who was pushed down by the Cameroun player, Andre Bikey. Sulley was often seen helping injured players on both sides in all the matches we played so he could have easily fallen victim to the “pusher”.
Lest I forget, Eric Addo and John Paintsil did so marvellously well that, when I heard that Paintsil was not well and to be flown to Nigeria for further tests, I prayed for his life.
Did anybody notice Asamoah Gyan move his fingers through Coach Le Roy’s hair? Funny! And also the dancing skills of Kwadwo Asamoah of Asante Kotoko? For the Kangaroo dance, it has become a trade mark of our Stars which others find difficult to copy.
There was a show of good relationship between Coach Le Roy and the boys which came out during his 60th birthday party. And again we all saw him give his jacket to Anthony Annan at a ceremony where he received the Fair Play Player award after the Stars’ encounter with Cameroun.
At this juncture, let me take the opportunity to say ayekoo to all those who played and the others who sat on the bench for making us so proud.
To some of us, the Stars gave us good football and entertainment which will last for a long time. For the criticisms, they should take them in good faith and take consolation in the fact that it was due to people’s passion for the game and their desire to see the nation win.
In an attempt to summarise what went on, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mrs Oboshie Sai Cofie, said, “I was surprised to hear children as young as six years talk about the tournament and discuss what the coach or this or that player did wrong. What can one expect, since we are a country of 22 million coaches?”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Information Minister Congratulates Ghanaians (page 31)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mrs Oboshie Sai Cofie, has congratulated Ghanaians on supporting and helping to lift the spirit of the national team, the Black Stars, during the just-ended Ghana 2008 tournament.
The Minister said just like many other Ghanaians, she was highly impressed with the performance of the team, which, to some extent, was boosted by the enthusiastic crowd which supported them on and off the field of play.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the Minister called on the people to continue with their show of patriotism and “not allow it to expire with the end of the game”.
She said it was refreshing to observe that when the team failed to qualify for the finals, people stopped criticising both the players and the coach and rather stood firmly behind them.
Mrs Sai Cofie said in spite of the fact that the national team was not able to win the cup, the excellent performance put up by the players had further pushed the popularity of the nation higher on the world map.
She thanked individuals, groups and institutions which supported the team both in kind and cash, adding, “We as a nation are fortunate to have such a young team which could be built on for the future. The team needs our continued support”.
The minister said Ghana had always been considered as a football-loving nation but never in the history of this country had so much been done for the game, and noted that people had to sacrifice their basic needs to acquire items made in the national colours to support the team.
The Information Minister said one of the reasons why the rest of world had now come to know Ghana without confusing it with Guyana had to do with the Black Star and encouraged the players to continue to answer national calls.
She said although they were faced with so much criticisms when things did not go well with the team, the players should accept that it was due to people’s passion for the game and their desire to see the nation win.
“I was surprised to hear children as young as six years talk about the tournament and discuss what the coach or this or that player did wrong. What can one expect since we are a country of 22 million coaches?” she observed.
Touching on the tournament, Mrs Sai Cofie said though people were not happy with the way some aspects went, especially ticketing, she pointed out that Ghanaians should congratulate each other and accept the fact that there were bound to be problems since the stadia had limited space and could, therefore, not have accommodated all those who had wanted to watch the matches.
On media accreditation, she observed that all was not well when the game began and expressed delight that the initial mistakes were corrected to allow sports journalists who were supposed to cover the event to do their job.
She said it was important to look at the benefit the tournament had brought to Ghana and said there was the need to make use of the physical infrastructure which were put up for the tournament and gain from them.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Statistical Service to Map Out Areas for 2010 Census (Page 47)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Monday, February 11, 2008)
THE Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) will this month begin a training programme for some of its personnel to map out localities for the 2010 population census.
In an interview in Accra, the Government Statistician, Dr Grace Bediako, said the mapping exercise was for the personnel to demarcate each district into smaller enumeration areas of 150 households for easy and effective data collection during the census.
The Government Statistician said the GSS in collaboration with the Survey Department and the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment were currently taking steps to identify boundaries and demarcate areas for the newly created districts as well as update those of the existing ones.
A census is the process of obtaining information about every member of a population. The term is mostly used in connection with national population and door-to-door censuses to be taken every 10 years according to United Nations (UN) recommendations.
Ghana conducted the last census in 2000 and recorded 18,912,079 people. There were 9,357, 382 males and 9,554, 697 females at the time. Currently, the Ghanaian population is estimated at about 22 million.
Dr Bediako said after the training programme, the personnel would be divided into 10 teams, with four members in each team, to cover the 10 regions, adding that two additional teams would be assigned to verify the work of the 10 teams.
She pointed out that as soon as the service received additional funding for the exercise, more teams would be added to the initial 10 teams.
She further said that the manual to be used for the census would be developed this year as part of the preparation for the exercise.
The Government Statistician stated that Ghana had reached a stage where it had become necessary to embark on digitised mapping process instead of continuing with the previous manual system and said the service would this time combine both the manual and the digitised system for easy compilation and dissemination of statistical information.
“The digitised mapping process is more expensive but it is quicker and makes dissemination of information much easier,” she observed.
She observed that the next census would be more challenging, since instead of the 110 districts which were covered in 2000, presently, there were 168 districts to be covered.
Late last year, President J.A. Kufuor, by an Executive Instrument (EI), created 28 new districts, increasing the total number of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies from 138 to 166. Some towns were elevated to municipal status and some municipal areas to metropolitan areas.
The Government Statistician stated that the service had set up an advisory committee to help it to put in place effective machinery for a successful census, adding that the committee was made up of experts to advise the GSS as to what direction to go.
Apart from the actual counting of people, she said information such as sex, age, employment, housing, sanitation, access to water and fertility levels among other things which the advisory committee would advise, would be gathered.
She appealed to the country’s development partners and other organisations and institutions which had the interests of Ghana at heart to come to its aid to enable the country to have an effective census programme necessary for planning and development.
“This is the time to appeal for funds to enable the service to plan well for the exercise which is scheduled for 2010,” she stressed.
Dr Bediako said as usual, the census would take two weeks to complete with one census night to be used as the day of reference for the data collection on individuals.
She took the opportunity to appeal to Ghanaians to co-operate with the census officials when the time comes.

2 Arrested over GH¢76,000 Fraud (Page 3)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Saturday, February 9, 2008)
THE Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) has caused the arrest of two government employees for allegedly misappropriating more than GH¢76,000 belonging to the state.
Nikoi Kotei of the Personnel Processing Unit of the Ministry of Health (MoH), who allegedly diverted a total of GH¢50,907.04 into a private account between November and December 2007, is in the custody of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) in Accra.
The second suspect, John Nyannu, who is the Greater Accra Regional Director of the Department of Feeder Roads, also allegedly embezzled GH¢26,000 and is in police custody.
Sources at the BNI and the Ministries Police confirmed the arrests and said the suspects were being investigated.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Deputy Controller and Accountant-General in charge of Finance and Administration (F&A), Mr Abraham Mantey, said the two were arrested after initial investigations had been conducted into their activities by officials of the CAGD.
He said the investigations revealed that in November 2007 Kotei used the staff identification number of a former employee of the MoH in the Wassa West District of the Western Region to divert GH¢5,196.42 to a bank in Accra.
He said before Kotei could make the transfer, he had to re-activate the account, which had been dormant, with an initial savings of GH¢5 and added another GH¢5 later.
Throwing more light on the issue, the Head of the Payroll Division, Mr Seidu Kotomah, and his deputy, Mr Eugene Antwi Agyekum, said in December that same year, Kotei again transferred GH¢45,710.2 in the name of a former district director of Health Services in the Ahanta West District, also in the Western Region, into an account with a different bank in Accra.
Mr Agyekum said when the bank received the GH¢45,710.2 into that particular account, it became suspicious and drew his attention to it.
He said when investigations were conducted, it came out that Kotei waited for the CAGD to complete all checks on the payroll system for the months in question before effecting the transfers.
He said it was also noted that the suspect deleted the names from the payroll after the deal had been effected, adding that in the case of one of the persons whose data he used, he indicated that he was deceased.
Mr Agyekum said Kotei withdrew part of the money in the second instance.
Touching on Nyannu’s case, Mr Mantey said the suspect was involved in the sale of tender documents and allegedly embezzled the funds accruing from the sale.
He said in May 2007, it came out, after auditing, that Nyannu could not account for GH¢20,370 and later refunded GH¢3,300.
Mr Mantey said later, when auditing was conducted, it came out that the embezzled figure had risen from the initial GH¢20,370 to GH¢26,000.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Baah-Wiredu Visits Graphic (page 31)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, yesterday led a team of top officials from revenue agencies to the offices of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) to have an insight into some of the strategies being used by the company to increase productivity.
High on the agenda was the computerised system being used by the editorial department to record output of reporters on daily basis for easy assessment.
The team had discussions with some members of the management staff led by the Managing Director, Mr Ibrahim Awal, before having a tour of some departments of the company.
In the company of the Finance Minister were the Executive Secretary of the Revenue Agencies Governing Board (RAGB), Mr Harry Owusu, the Commissioner of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), Mr Emmanuel N. Doku, and his deputy, Mr Robert Kwami, the Commissioner of the Value Added Tax (VAT) Service, Mr Anthony Minlah, and the Deputy Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Mr K. E. Enyimayew.
Others were the Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Nana Juaben-Boateng Serebuor, an official of the ministry, Dr Asamoah Baah, and Mr Kofi Nti of the Tax Policy Unit of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and other officials from the agencies.
The visiting team expressed satisfaction at the performance of the company and commended both the management and the staff for contributing significantly towards national development.
Briefing the team, Mr Awal said Graphic as a company believed in credibility and high professional performance hence its leading position in the media landscape all these years.
The GCGL presently produces seven newspapers namely the Daily Graphic, the Mirror, Graphic Sports, Graphic Showbiz, Junior Graphic, Graphic Nsempa and the Advertiser.
Mr Awal said in the performance of their duties as producers of news stories, the company’s newspapers helped in the growth of businesses which in turn increased employment.
The Managing Director assured the minister and his entourage that the company would continue to do what was right as a media house and regularly pay dividends to the government to support the national economy.
Touching on the blogging system which is being used in the newsroom to assess reporters, Mr Awal said it brought out results and avoided disagreement between reporters and their supervisors, since the evidence of the level of one’s performance would be there for all to see, adding that remuneration was based on performance at all levels.
As part of the briefing process, a documentary on the activities of the company was shown to the Finance Minister and his entourage.
In his remarks, Mr Baah-Wiredu said it was refreshing to know that a company in Ghana was doing so well to increase productivity and also encourage its staff to perform.
He said he personally did not support the idea of dismissing people from their jobs but rather called for the adoption of methods to help individuals to develop themselves and improve upon their performance.
Mr Baah-Wiredu, who usually quoted from the Daily Graphic with dates and page numbers of individual issues of the paper, expressed the hope that GCCL could offer some suggestions to the revenue agencies in the area of assessing the output of their staff, since the country needed more from that sector to move forward.
He said the fact that the revenue agencies were able to exceed their target annually did not mean that all was well, adding that although they exceeded their target, what they collected was always far below the national expenditure.
Giving an example to support his assertion, the minister said as the estimated revenue target for 2008 stood at GG¢4.4 billion, the estimated financial requests stood at GH¢10 billion with other requests still coming in.
“We already have a gap of GH¢5.6 billion to fill; that is why we need to work hard,” he stressed.
He congratulated GCGL and expressed the hope that the company would share its experiences with other organisations to also develop.
After the meeting, the team visited the Daily Graphic newsroom where a Deputy Editor, Mr Emmanuel Amoako, briefed them on the blogging system and how individual reporters posted their stories for future reference.
The team also went to the Sports Department, the Photo Department, the Printing Section and the offices and the packaging section of G-Pak, a subsidiary of GCGL, which deals in printing and packaging for individuals and groups.
Staff of GCGL present at the meeting were the Editor of the Daily Graphic and President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr Ransford Tetteh; the Public Affairs Manager, Mr Albert Sam; the General Manager in charge of Finance, Mr Baah Adade; the Chief Internal Auditor, Mr Felix Ahima-Adonten; and the General Manager in charge of Packaging, Mr Charles Antwi.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Accountant-General's Dept Denies Media Reports (page 47)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD) has denied media reports that the department has refused to completely pay CAP 30 benefits to retirees of the Land Valuation Board (LVB) who qualify for such benefits.
Reacting to recent media reports which indicated that the department had refused to pay the retirees, in spite of directives from the Presidency, the Legal Officer of the CAGD, Mr Ali Abdul-Samad, said it was not correct that the department had refused to pay completely, explaining that the issue was about the period within which the payments should cover.
He explained that a committee set up to deliberate on the issue recommended that employees of the LVB who were appointed to pensionable post by December 31, 1971 should be paid the CAP 30 benefit up to December 1985 when the board ceased to be part of the Civil Service.
He also pointed out that the CAGD had not received any such directive from the Presidency but instead heard about it from the media.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, Mr Abdul-Samad stressed that the payment was supposed to cover between the date of employment and 1985 when the board was formed through a merger between the then Lands Department and the Ratings Division of the Ministry of Local Government through Section 43 of PNDCL 42 on December 31, 1985.
He explained that in 1993, end-of-service benefits were paid to the affected staff to compensate them for their conversion from civil servants to public servants.
He said the law, therefore, allowed only the payment from the time of employment to December 1985, while the rest of the period which the individual continued to work was supposed to be covered by the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
“This arrangement means that the retirees involved ceased to be beneficiaries of the CAP 30 after the cut-off date of December 31, 1985,” he stressed.
Mr Abdul-Samad appealed to the retirees not to feed the public with wrong information but rather come out with the truth.
He pointed out that some of the beneficiaries had complained, with the simple reason that the money they got as end-of-service benefit at the time was minimal. They, therefore, thought of getting more from the government.
“Many of them have forgotten that the amounts they collected were substantial at that time,” he said.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People. (page 7)

By Lucy Adoma Yeboah (February 2, 2008)

ON February 2, each year, the world celebrates World Wetlands Day to mark the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
Since 1997, government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), individuals and groups have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake programmes aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular.
Ghana, like the rest of the world, would have to remind itself of the importance of the day and find ways to protect its wetlands.
For this year’s celebration, the theme suggested by the Convention on Wetlands is, “Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People”, and this will also be the theme for Ramsar's 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in the Republic of Korea in October-November 2008.
Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land or where the land is covered by shallow water.
Wetlands in Ghana, just like elsewhere, are unique ecosystems that provide valuable products and services to satisfy social, economic and ecological needs at the local, national and international levels.
Ghana’s wetlands support fisheries, they play an important role in flood assimilation and provide a source of food, medicines, fuel and building materials for local people and are, therefore, important. All these come together to provide efficient health needs for individuals.
As the world celebrates the World Wetlands Day, there is the need for Ghanaians to have a look at the importance of wetlands. It is important for the celebration to offer us the opportunity to remind ourselves of a few keys issue that exemplify both the direct, positive effects on human health of maintaining healthy wetlands — such as the provision of food, clean water, pharmaceutical products and also the negative effects of mismanaging wetlands that result in the impairment of our health and even the loss of lives — such as the effects of water-related diseases, burning farmlands, floods and water pollution.
This year’s theme, “Healthy wetlands, healthy people”, is aimed at emphasising the strong relationship between healthy functioning wetland ecosystems and human health which underlines the importance of management strategies that support both the health of wetland ecosystems and the health of humans.
Information available at the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission of Ghana on the World Wetlands Day celebration indicates that wetland-related diseases claim the lives of more than three million people every year and bring suffering to many more.
It is also significant to note that adequate, good quality food is a prerequisite for a healthy people and wetlands are key contributors, since they supply us with, for example, fish, including shellfish, and also plants such as fruits and seeds.
Globally, about one billion people rely on fish as their main or sole source of protein and many more consume fish regularly.
In terms of cultivated wetland plants, rice is the most important at a global level, providing 20 per cent of the world's dietary energy supply. Other wetland plants, such as seaweed, although not harvested on the same scale as fish, are still an important source of food for local use and for international markets.
Indirectly, wetland plants often play a vital role as food for livestock on which the health of billions of people depend.
Many people are aware that well managed wetlands will continue to provide food to keep mankind healthy, but there are many human actions that negatively affect the capacity of wetlands to continue to provide for us.
In Ghana, just like many countries of the world, pollution, excessive water abstraction, poor sanitation, over harvesting and, of course, direct wetland destruction by developers and farmers, among others, reduce or destroy the capacity of wetlands to provide food for human consumption, which in turn affects our health.
Water supply
In the area of water supply, wetlands perform a vital function in filtering and purifying freshwater and, therefore, rendering it clean for human consumption. Wetlands have never been a more valuable service for human populations than today when more than one billion people lack access to clean water supplies. But wetlands can only provide us with clean water if we keep them healthy through effective management.
What happens when we destroy our wetlands is obvious — we lose this source of clean water, as well as all the other ecosystem services they provide.
Despite the capacity of freshwater wetlands in purifying water, they do have their limits and that is why it is important to preserve them.
Of particular concern is the 2.6 billion people today who lack access to adequate sanitation and, therefore, pollute wetlands through indiscriminate littering and directly dumping into such water bodies.
Water-related diseases
In many parts of the world, human health is closely linked to water-related diseases. Malaria, because mosquitoes breed in wetlands, and diarrhoea infections, because of sewage contamination, are globally the worst in terms of severity in impact. The problems accounted for 1.3 and 1.8 million deaths, respectively, in 2002, and affected the health of many.
While malaria and diarrhoeal diseases are the two worst in terms of human impact, we may add to this the debilitating effects of other wetland-related diseases such as schistosomiases, onchocerciasis and others.
Diarrhoeal diseases can be controlled through the provision of clean water, good sanitation practices and hygiene education. Poorly treated human sewage contains pathogens that are a key cause of diarrhoeal infections — and wetlands (both inland and coastal) — can be an important transport mechanism for such pathogens where sanitation is poor.
Floods have become more destructive in recent times because, increasingly, human infrastructure is being built in flood-prone areas. This we are all aware of from media reports, statisticians and our own personal experiences.
The direct and immediate impacts on human health include the loss of lives, injuries and, within a very short period of time, the lack of clean water and destruction of sewage systems which result in another set of threats to human health such as diarrhoea, cholera and other life-threatening, water-related ailments.
Receding floods in some countries also provide the perfect environment for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Finally, there are the long-term effects on mental health, such as anxiety and depression that often follow a major flooding event.
While we cannot easily prevent major floods, we can ensure that we benefit from the flood protection services that wetlands supply. We should know that rivers, lakes and marshes slow down and retain floodwaters to prevent flooding such as the one we recently experienced in the northern part of the country.
Wetlands medicines
Many wetland plants and a number of animal species have been used in traditional medicines for certain ailments and this continues today. They are also used in homeopathic medicines, an ever-growing industry in the developed world, and have a role in the development and production of modern medicines. Activities such as over-collection, destructive harvesting techniques and habitat loss and alteration together challenge the capacity of wetland species to continue to fulfil these roles.
Mental well-being
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that depression and depression-related illnesses will become the greatest source of ill-health by 2020 and the effects on health of physical inactivity in urban populations are becoming ever more costly in terms of medical treatment. We use urban green spaces (parks), including rivers, lakes and reservoirs, for recreation, education and relaxation.
The value of green spaces such as parks in improving the mental and physical health of urban populations is gaining greater recognition and current studies indicate measurable physical and psychological benefits from regular contact with urban green spaces. It is unfortunate that such facilities are not readily available in Ghanaian cities and towns.
Knowing the important role wetlands play in the health of human beings, every Ghanaian should support the fight being fought by groups such as the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, the Wildlife Society of Ghana, the Friends of the Earth, Ghana (FOE–Ghana) and other like-minded institutions and groups to save our wetlands and enable them to continue providing us the needed health needs.

Be careful with combustible materials -Chief Fire Officer

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Chief Fire Officer, Mr Felix Kwame Ferkah, has cautioned Ghanaians to be extra careful when dealing with fire now that the country is facing severe dry weather conditions.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic , Mr Ferkah said, “We are in a period where the slightest mistake could cause us dearly so we need to be extra careful with how we handle combustible materials.”
He mentioned some items which must be handled carefully, especially as the harmattan season intensified, as all electrical appliances, especially water heaters and pressing irons, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cookers and cylinders, petrol, welding equipment, candles, firewood, charcoal, lighted cigarettes and all naked fires.
A recent report by the Daily Graphic indicated that 25 people lost their lives, while 165 sustained injuries, as a result of burns they received during fire outbreaks last year.
It said the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), however, successfully responded to 2,301 fire outbreaks throughout the country, with an estimated loss of GH¢7.2 million to the victims, during the period.
According to Mr Ferkah, many people were usually caught unawares by fires because they believed that they were accustomed to some items, either in their homes or at their workplaces, and, therefore, knew how best to handle them without the necessary precaution.
Touching on combustible materials, he said the biggest threat usually came from LPG and advised that leakage on cylinders and tubes should be checked regularly.
Mr Ferkah said there was also the need for ventilation in kitchens and areas where gas cookers were kept for air to blow around in case there was leakage.
On electrical connections and appliances, he said wires that had been installed between 15 and 20 years should be replaced, adding that plugs should be removed from sockets when appliances are not in use, since power could still run through such plugs in some instances and ignite fire.
He also advised fitting shop operators, welders and other machine operators who dealt with combustible materials to be wary of how they handled their equipment, especially around areas of open fire, to protect property and human lives.
The Chief Fire Officer also touched on market women who used fire at the markets and also farmers who set fires on their farms and stated that there was the need for all to be cautious for their own good and the good of others.
Mr Ferkah also urged managers of public institutions and operators of public places such as hospitals, schools, manufacturing companies, cinema houses, restaurants, among others, to have some of their staff members trained as fire wardens and also put in place fire extinguishers and hydrants in case of any eventuality.
Quoting from Legislative Instrument (LI) 1724, the Chief Fire Officer said it was an offence for any public institution to operate without a clearance certificate from the GNFS.
He announced that fire fighting was free but took the opportunity to advise people who made calls to fire stations when there were no fires to desist from that behaviour, since that attitude did not augur well for both the public and the service.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Help Prpmote LEAP Programme (page 14)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah and Edward Turkson

THE Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment, Nana Akomeah, has stated that the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme which is meant to alleviate the suffering of the poor should be supported instead of the political meanings being read into it.
He said
under the programme, the government would spend less than one per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to achieve payouts to more than 160 extremely poor Ghanaian households as a major complementary measure to relieve “fellow citizens who at the moment find themselves in the category of extremely poor, vulnerable and excluded”.
“We are talking about households who have HIV sufferers who have difficulty in raising the highly subsidised GH¢5 cost of monthly treatment. We are talking about households that benefit from improved seeds for planting but end up using some of the seeds for food,” he stressed.
At his turn at the Meet-the-Press series organised by the Ministry of Information and National Orientation in Accra yesterday, Nana Ankomea said “the objection that a welfare programme is dubious because it is an election year is a very unworthy objection”.
He said in as much as the programme was not mainly to achieve political points, the government would be appreciative “if the populace sees the programme as enhancing their welfare and well-being, then we should expect reasonable total support from all and sundry”.
Nana Akomeah stated that the programme was not meant to benefit members of one political party, adding that the criteria for selecting the beneficiaries had been developed by a credible team of local and international experts.
The LEAP programmes is a component of the National Social Protection Strategy which aims at investing in people through social assistance schemes.
Nana Akomea said the core feature of the LEAP was direct cash transfer to categories of poor people, adding that the Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS 5) which was conducted in 2005 and 2006 indicated that 41 per cent of Ghanaians were poor and out of that figure, 18. 2 per cent were considered extremely poor.
He described the extremely poor which the LEAP would take care of as those whose income fell below US$1.00 and were unable to cater for their basic human needs including their food requirements and also suffered from poverty across generations.
“The primary target of LEAP is this 18.2 per cent of the people identified by the GLSS as falling into the category of extreme poor,” the minister stated.
He noted that the amount to be disbursed per month ranged from GH¢8 to GH¢15 depending on the extent of poverty and whether the household had an orphan, a severely disabled person, and persons aged more than 65, adding that the programme would be implemented nationwide from 2008 to 2012.
He said the total cost of the programme for the five-year period was estimated at GH¢26 million, amounting to less than one per cent of GDP.
Nana Akomea dismissed the notion that the programme was being implemented this year to achieve political points and pointed out that the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II) recognised issues of the poor before this year and, therefore, gave his ministry the mandate to develop and implement the programme which it worked on between 2004 and 2007.
On delayed salaries of employees of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), Nana Akomea said the problem stemmed from the fact that his outfit received its allocation for salaries on a three-month basis from some state institutions, who also received those funds on a three-month basis.
The National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) receives financial assistance from the National Health Insurance Scheme, GETFund, District Assembly Common Fund and the HIPC fund.
He announced that personnel at his ministry were preparing cheques for the payment of the affected employees some of whom had not been paid for more than three months.
The National Co-ordinator of the National Social Protection Strategy, Mrs Angela Asante Asare, said although the programme could not solve all the problems facing the poor in Ghana, it could be used to alleviate their suffering.
For her part, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon, who is the leader of the design team currently working on the LEAP programme, Ms Ellen Botei-Doku Aryeetey, said if the country was able to register the extremely poor out of the LEAP programme, that register could be used to identify other needed assistance.
The Chairperson for the programme who is also the Minister for Information and National Orientation, Mrs Oboshie Sai Cofie, advised journalists to help explain the concept to the people.

Govt takes measure to improve cocoa haulage (page 47)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 30, 2008)
THE government and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) have jointly signed a contract with 30 road contractors for the commencement of civil works on a total of 205 kilometres of roads in six cocoa growing regions as part of the Cocoa Roads Improvement Programme (CRIP).
The contract, which covers the first phase of a three-phased programme, will be implemented between 2008 and 2010 on regional basis to help in carting cocoa to the marketing centres.
By the end of the three-phased programme, it is expected that 25.4 kilometres in the Volta Region, 54.5 kilometres in the Central Region, 54.1 kilometres in the Eastern Region and 222.5 kilometres in the Western Region would have been reconstructed. It is also expected that 152.7 of Ashanti and 92.3 kilometres of Brong Ahafo cocoa roads would be improved.
The total contract sum for the first phase programme is GH¢25.2 million.
The Cocoa Roads Improvement Programme (CRIP) is considered the first major upgrading intervention targeted specifically at “cocoa roads” and involves the bituminous surfacing of about 600 kilometres of roads at the total cost of GH¢100 million to be provided by the government and COCOBOD.
At the signing ceremony in Accra, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, said the procurement procedures covering the first phase of the programme had been completed for work to start and ensure easy access to cocoa-producing areas.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said the government, in collaboration with the COCOBOD had in recent times embarked on various measures aimed at increasing cocoa production.
He mentioned some of the measures as remunerative prices and payment of bonuses, which he said had been paid six times since 2001, adding that the government had been fair in paying for their produce.
The Finance Minister also touched on disease and pest control exercises, improving agronomic practices on cocoa farms, increased value addition to cocoa, introduction of new methods in cocoa farming and sustained scholarship to cocoa farmers’ wards in second cycle institutions which currently stood at 7,500 as additional measures.
“This administration will continue to give all the needed support to the cocoa sector to ensure that it achieves its maximum potential”, he stated.
He took the opportunity to advise the contractors involved in the project "to do a good job and on time because the ministry will come tough on contractors who do poor work".
The Minister of State for Transportation, Mr Godfrey Banyo Tangu, said advertisement for the second phase of the programme which would cover additional 200 kilometres, would soon be published to enable interested contractors bid for the contracts.
He gave the assurance that funds for the project had been secured, adding that the "issue of delayed payment should not be an issue for you to delay in the execution of the contracts."
The Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Mr Isaac Osei, said the board saw the implementation of such programmes as part of its social responsibility to farmers and added that it also helped in the area of health and education by providing health care facilities and scholarships.
He expressed the hope that the implementation of the Cocoa Roads Improvement Programme would help reduce the cost of carting cocoa from the hinterlands and also help make life easier for farmers in those areas.
The First Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ellembelle, Mr Freddie Blay, expressed his gratitude to the government for implementing such a programme that would benefit cocoa farmers including people in his constituency.
The National Chairman of the Ghana Road Contractors Association, Mr J.Twumasi Mensah said since the government had given the assurance of funds being available, contractors on the projects would complete the work on schedule and also, according to specification.

FGM and Associated Health Problems (Page 9)

Article: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 30, 2008)

TWENTY-EIGHT-YEAR-OLD Hawa was sent away by her husband after a little over three months in the matrimonial home. When neighbours wanted to know her offence, her husband refused to talk but only said he was fed up with her.
Surprisingly, that was not the first time, but the third, that the beautiful, hard-working and respectful Hawa was being sent away by a husband, a situation people in her community found difficult to understand.
Hawa’s predicament elicited speculations. Some opined that she likely was not much of a cook. Some went so far as to say she might be a thief who was stealing from her husband. Other reasons assigned were that Hawa might be wetting her bed or was probably married to a spirit being, which made it difficult for men to keep her.
These rumours went on for a long time till Hawa thought she could bear it no more and decided to end it all.
One hot afternoon, a labourer in her father’s house found her lying semi-unconscious and foaming at the mouth and in the nostrils. When she was rushed to the nearest hospital, it was detected that she had taken in poison. Fortunately, the poison was not strong enough to kill her.
Hawa now preferred death to marital agony. Unknown to others, she had undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) during childhood and this resulted in keliod scars around her genitalia. This made it impossible for a man to have sexual intercourse with her. Which man would want to have such a woman for a wife?
Another scenario: Lamisi lost her two children. Her third child survived only because a female teacher in the community was smart enough to send her to hospital for a caesarian section two weeks to the time of delivery.
Lamisi, also a victim of FGM, had scars around her genitalia which, although allowing painful sexual intercourse, failed to stretch out at childbirth to enable a baby to come out naturally.
At a day’s training workshop on information and communication on FGM organised for journalists by the Ghanaian Association for Women’s Welfare (GAWW) in Accra on January 17, 2008, the President of the association, Mrs Faustina Ali, said it was believed that between five and nine per cent of Ghanaian women had undergone FGM. Some reports put the figure between nine and 15 per cent.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM, often referred to as 'female circumcision', entails all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.
Different types of female genital mutilation known to be practised today include Type I — excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris; Type II — excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora; Type III — excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation), and Type IV that also involves pricking, piercing or incising of the clitoris and/or labia; stretching of the clitoris and/or labia; cauterisation by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissue; scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal orifice (angurya cuts) or cutting of the vagina (gishiri cuts).
It is worthy of note that the introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or for the purpose of tightening or narrowing it and any other procedure that falls under the definition given above also constitutes FGM under Type IV.
The WHO states that the most common type of female genital mutilation is the excision of the clitoris and the labia minora which accounts for up to 80 per cent of all cases, adding that the most extreme form is infibulation, which constitutes about 15 per cent of all procedures.
Mrs Ali quoted from a recent research conducted by the Navrongo Health Institute on the extent of practice among the Kasena Nankanas in the Upper East Region in 1995 which revealed that about 77 per cent of all women of reproductive age living in the northern part of that area had undergone FGM, while 85 per cent of women in the same age group in the Bawku area had also undergone the practice.
She pointed out that the practice continued in other areas of the Upper East, Upper West, Northern and Brong Ahafo regions by some ethnic groups.
Some of the groups mentioned were the Kasena Nankanas, Bulsas, Busangas, Kantonsis, Kusasis, Wallas, Sisalas, Lobis, Dagartis, Grunshies and Moshies.
It is important to note that migrants from areas of the country and other West African countries where FGM is practised, continue with the practice wherever they settle.
Reasons given by those who practise FGM include reducing a woman's desire for sex and thereby reduce the chances of sex outside the marriage.
Some view the clitoris and the labia as male parts on a female body, thus their removal, it is claimed, enhances the femininity. It is also believed that unless a female has undergone this procedure she is unclean and will not be allowed to handle food or water.
Some groups believe that if the clitoris touches a man's penis the man will die. It is also claimed that if a baby's head touches the clitoris the baby will die or the breast milk will be poisonous. Additionally, there is the belief that an unmutilated female cannot conceive. For her to be fertile, therefore, she must be mutilated.
People in such communities also believe that bad genital odours can only be eliminated by removing the clitoris and labia minora, adding that it prevents vaginal cancer.
In the past there was also the belief that an “unmodified” clitoris could lead to masturbation or lesbianism, among other anti-social acts.
Health consequences of FGM
Addressing the journalists at the workshop, Dr Isaac Koranteng of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) said FGM was a cultural practice that started in Africa approximately 2000 years ago.
According to him, immediate and long-term health consequences of female genital mutilation vary according to the type and severity of the procedure performed.
Immediate complications include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, urine retention, ulceration of the genital region and injury to adjacent tissues. Haemorrhage and infection can cause death.
He said more recently, concerns have been raised about the possible transmission of the human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) due to the use of the same instrument in multiple operations.
Long-term consequences, according to Dr Koranteng, include cysts and abscesses, keliod scar formation, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse) and sexual dysfunction and difficulties with childbirth.
In the area of psychosexual and psychological health, he pointed out that genital mutilation may leave a lasting mark in the life and mind of the woman who has undergone it. In the longer term, women may suffer feelings of incompleteness, anxiety and depression.
Who practises FGM?
In cultures where FGM prevails, female genital mutilation is practised by followers of all religious beliefs including animists and non-believers. FGM is usually performed by a traditional practitioner with crude instruments and without anaesthesia and this can negatively affect the girl or woman.
It is considered primarily as a cultural practice, not a religious practice. But some religions do include FGM as part of their religious practices. This practice is so ingrained in such cultures that FGM is synonymous with cultural identity. In effect, elimination of the practice would be tantamount to eliminating the cultural belief that a girl will not become a woman without this procedure.
Prevalence and distribution of FGM It was made known at the workshop that most of females who have undergone genital mutilation live in 28 African countries, although some also live in Asia and the Middle East. Those who practise it are also increasingly being found in Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA, primarily among immigrants from these countries.
Today the number of girls and women who have undergone FGM globally is estimated at between 100 and 140 million. It is estimated, too, that each year two million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM.
The age at which FGM is performed varies from area to area. It is performed on infants a few days old, on female children and adolescents and, occasionally, on mature women.
Speaking of the Law and Human Rights, Ms Chris Dadzie, a former Director of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), said there were laws against FGM in Ghana but that there was the need for awareness of the legislative framework to promote the translation of the law into practical policies and institutional arrangements.
Ms Dadzie also pointed out that the enactment of laws does not in itself address substantive issues which systematically undermine and constrain the ability of affected persons to participate equally and effectively in societal life.
She said there were many laws including the 1992 Constitution making provisions for the eradication of specific forms of social injustice, including FGM, adding that unfortunately the practice had persisted.
She also pointed out omissions in previous laws which targeted only practitioners and left out other parties who played a primary role in commission of the offence such as parents, guardians, families and members of the community.
She explained that both practitioners and participants of FGM were liable and could be sentenced to a minimum of five years and a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment.