Monday, March 31, 2008

Let Parliament Participate in Drafting of Budgets - Badgin (Spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr Alban Bagbin, has noted that the current process of drawing budgets under the 1992 Constitution does not allow Parliament to play any effective role.
Mr Bagbin, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nadowli West, also stated that the date of presentation of the budget and the duration of debates, which lasted for about a month, was not long enough to allow any serious work on such an important national document.
He has, therefore, called for a constitutional amendment to mandate Parliament to participate more effectively in the drafting stage and the power to amend the budget when presented to Parliament. He also recommended an extension of the period of deliberation on the statement to three months.
Mr Bagbin said one of the critical factors affecting Parliament’s role in the budgetary process was the fact that the House played no significant role in the drafting of the budget but expected to deliberate and approve it after its presentation.
Mr Bagbin said currently Parliament’s participation in the budget process started with a statement presented by the Minister of Finance under the instruction of the President and then a motion moved in Parliament on an appointment day for deliberation.
Addressing participants at a recent workshop for media practitioners on the budgetary process in Accra, the Minority Leader explained that although stakeholders were allowed to send inputs, the drafting of the budget was vested solely in the hands of the Executive.
He said, however, that the House played a critical role within its mandate and resources and mentioned its oversight role over the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) through monitoring and evaluation and field visits to communities, which, he said, helped to monitor implementation and added that “these need to be sustained”.
Speaking on the topic: “The Role of Parliament in the Budgetary Process”, Mr Bagbin said there was the need for a budget office to be established to offer requisite analysis and alternatives on budget statement to achieve national objectives, adding that “this requires the right legislative backing”.
Explaining what a budget was, he said budgets helped in forecasting revenue and project expenditure for year based on identified priorities, adding that it was a powerful tool that guided development in any nation.
He mentioned the various stages in the budgetary processes as the drafting stage, the legislative stage, the implementation stage and the auditing stage.
He said as representatives of the people, parliamentarians had the responsibility to ensure that budgets matched the needs of the people and said that was why it was important for the House to enforce the “Power of the Purse” as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.
He said it was unfortunate for some people to perceive the Minority as being there to only oppose anything that came from the Majority, adding that “we agree on about 95 per cent of the issues raised in the House and disagree on about five per cent”.
He lamented that lack of knowledge of the work of Parliament on the part of some members of the public, from comments they sometimes made about some MPs with opposing views, could be disheartening sometimes and said “some of us feel bad when we hear such comments from people”.
He pointed out that the Minority in Parliament was there to protect the interest of the ordinary people.
The Minority Leader called for support from all Ghanaians to enable MPs to perform better and also touched on a complementary increase in Parliament’s budget to obtain the needed resources, which included engaging staff with requisite expertise on issues to support them.
He pointed out that these changes would help Parliament as an institution to achieve its own objective as stated in Parliament’s Enhanced Strategic Plan and, therefore, “strengthen Parliament’s significance in budget-making, approval and oversight”.
Mr Bagbin, however, stated that in spite of these shortcomings, there were some improvement in the budgetary processes over the years and mentioned access to budget information, improvement in committee oversight role and also the autonomy of the Auditor General (AG), which, he said, was assured, and a stronger relationship built with Parliament.
He expressed appreciation that Ghana’s Parliament within its current mandate and with the resources available to it was doing its best to play an effective role in the budgetary process.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Northern Ghana Dev Fund Set in Motion (Page 3)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (March 29, 2008)
THE government has begun the process of establishing the proposed Northern Ghana Development Fund which was announced in this year’s budget.
The establishment of the fund is in line with government’s intent to transform the economy and society of northern Ghana through a medium to long-term development strategy in view of the gap in development between the northern part of the country and the south.
With seed money of GH¢25 million, the government will set up the Northern Ghana Development Fund to which development partners will be encouraged to contribute.
As part of the process, a series of consultative meetings are being organised by a team of government officials drawn from the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) who have been tasked to do the preparatory work to gather views from stakeholders in the affected regions for the drafting of a policy document by May 2008 for parliamentary deliberations.
Key personalities on the project are the Head of Policy Co-ordination, Monitoring and Evaluation at the Office of the President, Professor Kwaku Appiah Adu, and the Technical Advisor at the MoFEP, Dr Sam Mensah.
Speaking with the Daily Graphic in Accra, Dr Mensah said the team would facilitate its work to enable it to present a document to Parliament when it reconvened on May 20, 2008.
Issues for discussion, according to the technical advisor, included the governing structure of the fund, its focus, the programmes and projects it should cover and also how to go beyond the seed money for the fund.
He said the team was not going to delay the process at all, since we were in an election year and the MPs would be too busy around the end of the year to properly work on the document.
He said the views of stakeholders from all the three northern regions, namely, the Northern, Upper East and Upper West, would be sought, adding that there had already been meetings with the Northern Caucus in Parliament and members of the Northern Development Initiative, a policy institute based in Tamale.
Dr Mensah stated that the various regional co-ordinating councils (RCCs) were expected to play a major role in the process.
Touching on the activities of the working team, Dr Mensah said it began with a concept paper to serve as guide during consultations with the stakeholders.
He said so far all the people in the three regions which the team had contacted had showed interest in the process, adding that it was important if the people for which the fund was to benefit owned it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

KNUST organises energy seminar for flag bearers (Front Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has decided to create a common platform for four political parties to present their perspectives on the country’s energy needs.
The programme, dubbed, “Flag Bearers on Energy Special Seminar Series”, will enable the four parties that have elected their flag bearers to also explain how best they will manage the energy sector if they are voted into power.
Designed by the Energy Centre of the College of Engineering of KNUST, the programme will enable each of the four flag bearers to come up with a presentation on the issue and answer questions from specially invited stakeholders.
This came to light when the Provost of the College of Engineering, Professor F.W.Y. Momade, and the Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical and Agricultural Engineering, Professor Abeeku Brew-Hammond, paid a courtesy call on the Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Mr Ibraham Awal.
The visit was to seek assistance to publicise the programme, scheduled for Thursday, April 10, 2008 and Friday, April 11, 2008 at the Great Hall of KNUST.
The flag bearers in question are Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Professor John Evans Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr Edward Mahama of the People’s National Convention (PNC) and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
As part of the guidelines for the seminar, the organisers have decided to restrict the issues to energy and have, therefore, requested the flag bearers to avoid politicisation, both in their presentation and their answers to questions from the floor.
Throwing more light on the issue, Prof Momade said the programme had become necessary as a result of the trouble the country was pushed into during the recent energy crisis which lasted for more than a year.
He said it was important that the flag bearers were asked their views, since any of them could the elected to become the next president of the country.
A guide for the programme indicates that the seminar is to contribute towards the definition of policy frameworks for achieving a crisis-free energy sector in Ghana.
It says the seminar will also create a forum for lecturers, students and the general public to gain insights into the plans of the presidential candidates to establish a favourable policy framework for the energy sector development in Ghana.
The guide states that the planning group of the seminar will document the views of the flag bearers in both soft and hard copies for future energy policy making.
For his part, Prof Brew-Hammond said the seminar would bring out the candidates’ knowledge on energy and said it was important that the public got to know their views on the topic, which was very important to the nation’s development.
The two professors touched on the work the Energy Centre had been doing on alternative sources of energy for the country.
They said it was in that direction that a series of seminars were being conducted in Accra and Kumasi and that the programme for the flag bearers was partly towards finding an alternative source of energy.
Mr Awal assured the team of the support of all the newspapers of the company and said it was left to the college to inform the newspapers of their activities for coverage.
He said it was refreshing that the college was trying to tackle the energy problem which affected all sectors of the economy, including the newspaper industry.
The Editor of the Daily Graphic, Mr Ransford Tetteh, advised the college not to keep the various research activities it had conducted on its shelves but put them into practice so that the works of the researchers would be appreciated by society.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

We're Doing Well -Says Baah-Wiredu (Front Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, has said that although Ghana’s economy has not reached the best level yet, the facts on the ground suggest that living conditions are not deteriorating.
He said in spite of the fact that the prices of goods and services were going up, a situation which he said was not peculiar to Ghana, the income levels of Ghanaians were also moving up to balance the situation.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Finance Minister said the current minimum wage of GH¢2.25 could purchase more items on the market, compared to the number of items one could purchase when the figure stood at 42Gp by the end of 2000.
He said information provided by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) indicated that when the minimum wage was 42Gp per day in 2000, one kilogramme of bread sold at 44Gp, adding that a worker could not buy a kilogramme of bread with a day’s wage at that time.
“Currently, the minimum wage is GH¢2.25 and one kilogramme of bread is GH¢1 so a worker can buy two kilogrammes of bread and get a 25Gp change in addition,” he explained.
Giving additional examples to support his assertion, the minister pointed out that with the GH¢2.25 wage per day, the least paid worker was expected to receive GH¢67.50 per month, an amount which, he stated, could currently be used to purchase six bags of cement, even if it was calculated at GH¢10 per bag, leaving some change for the buyer.
“In 2000, when the minimum wage was 42Gp, the least paid worker received GH¢12.60 per month, which could purchase four bags of cement at GH¢3.50 per bag,” he stated.
Last month, the National Tripartite Committee announced a new minimum wage of GH¢2.25 per day, an increase of 18.42 per cent over last year’s minimum wage of GH¢1.90. The minimum wage is tax exempt.
In a communiqué issued after its meeting in Accra, the committee said the effective date for the implementation of the new wage was March 1, 2008.
The communiqué was signed on behalf of the government by the Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment, Nana Akomea, the Executive Director of the Ghana Employers Association, Mrs Rose Karikari Anang, and the acting Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr Kofi Asamoah.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said what Ghanaians could do to better their lot was to continue to work hard to enable the economy to boom so that “we can all enjoy as a people”.
He also took the opportunity to advise all employers, especially those in the informal sector, to pay their workers based on the lawful minimum wage.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NYEP Employees To Get Allowance Arrears (Back Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (March 26, 2008)
ALL arrears due employees under the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) will be paid within the next two weeks.
In addition, the government is also making arrangements with some financial institutions to begin paying allowances of the employees on monthly basis to prevent the problem of delays in payment.
The youth, who are currently being prepared to be absorbed into the mainstream labour market, are not in permanent employment and as such earn allowances.
This came up in an interview with the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, when he briefed the Daily Graphic on issues that came up during his encounter with a section of his constituents in Asante Akyem North in the Ashanti Region.
Mr Baah-Wiredu hinted that there were plans to increase the less than six per cent Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) support to 10 per cent to enable the programme to employ more teachers under the Community Education/Teaching Module.
Since the launch of the programme in October, 2006, to provide jobs for many unemployed Ghanaian youth, there have been challenges concerning the prompt payment of allowances to the beneficiaries.
Instead of monthly payments, the staff of the NYEP receive their allowances quarterly, a situation they have appealed against and called for its rectification.
At his turn at the Meet-the-Press series on September 18, 2007, the Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment, Nana Akomea, said employment statistics indicated that about 26 per cent of the population of Ghana made up of mostly youth were either unemployed or underemployed.
He said the programme sought to provide a combination of self-employment opportunities, wage earnings and voluntary service activities to the youth.
Currently, modules being implemented under the NYEP are the Youth in Agriculture, Community Protection, Waste and Sanitation Management, Community Education/Teaching, Paid Internship, Health Extension and Vacation Jobs.
So far, out of the about 334,000 applicants on the NYEP, only 108,000 have been enrolled.
The total wage bill for the employed now stands at about GH¢6.4 million a month.
The NYEP draws its funds from the GETFund, the HIPC Fund and the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF).
Touching on how to sustain the programme, Mr Baah-Wiredu said the government was interested in seeing it succeed to benefit more unemployed youth, adding that if the Communications Service Tax Bill (talk tax) became a law, additional revenue would be generated to support it.
He said efforts would be made to employ the more than 200,000 people who had registered under the scheme but had not as yet been employed.
Mr Baah-Wiredu cautioned Ghanaians against falsehood and sensationalism as the nation entered into political campaigning and advised especially media practitioners to desist from reports which had the potential of creating tension.

Local Firms Shy Away From Govt Procurement Processes (Page 33)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (March 26, 2008)
THE Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), Mr Agyenim Boateng Adjei, has said that in spite of the existing potential for developing local industries through public procurement, many local firms do not participate in the exercise.
Mr Adjei has identified a reason for the low patronage of local firms as inadequate capacity to participate in tenders, particularly when the values are big.
Other reasons he identifies are the slow government payment system, the real or imaginary feelings among contractors that corruption plays a part in the award of contracts and the lack of capacity on the part of the firms to raise credit, bid bonds and securities from local banks and insurance companies considering the high interest rates.
Addressing a two-day media sensitisation workshop on the budgetary process in Accra, Mr Adjei said the policies and procedures applied under the Public Procurement Act of 2003 (Act 663) ensured that state resources were applied judiciously and that the processes were carried out in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner.
“Compliance with the act, therefore, ensures integrity in the processes”, he stressed.
He mentioned those who qualify to participate in such procurement exercises as consultants, contractors, architects and engineers.
He encouraged the local firms to endeavour to take centre stage in the process, explaining that the government’s overall procurement policy was centred on buying the products it needed under fair and open competitive tendering processes, guarding against corruption and achieving value for money.
Touching on the importance of public procurement in Ghana, Mr Adjei said further that the exercise represented between 50 and 80 per cent of the national budget and about 14 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
“Ghana’s total public procurement expenditure for 2005 was over GH¢1.4 billion and GH¢1.78 billion for 2006”, he pointed out.
Mr Adjei said since its inception, the PPA had developed regulations and manuals, a website, web-based procurement planning software, public procurement module of excellence tool, skills and guidelines on margin of preference.
Other achievements include skills and training needs assessment and professionalism, setting up the appeals and complaints panel, developing procedures for sole sourcing and selective tendering, publicity and publication of the procurement bulletin as well as the establishment of database of service providers.
Other speakers on various topics included the Chief Economic Planning Officer of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Awua Peasah; the Minority Leader and the Member of Parliament for Nadowli, Mr Alban Bagbin; a representative of the Centre for Economic Policy Analysis (CEPA), Dr Samuel Ashong; an economist at the World Bank Ghana office, Mr Daniel Boakye; a lecturer at the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Mr Gilbert Tietaah and the Principal of the National Banking College, Mr Philip Buabeng.
The workshop which was jointly organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the World Bank and KAB Governance Consult, was on the theme, “Strengthening Public Accountability Through Improved Media Understanding of the Budgetary Process”.

Climate Change Influences Increase In Disease (Page 20)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Mirror, Thursday, March 20, 2008)

CLIMATE change has the potential of increasing some infectious diseases, particularly those that occur in warm areas and are spread by mosquitoes and other insects.
These diseases include malaria, which is the number one killer disease in sub-Saharan Africa, dengue fever, yellow fever and encephalitis (swollen brain), a document prepared by the Chief Executive Officer of the Development Geo-information Services, Dr Emmanuel Amamoo-Otchere, has noted.
In addition, a particular segment of the human population to be affected more by changes in the climate are those with heart problems, asthmatic patients, the elderly, the very young and the homeless who are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.
The document, prepared in connection with this year’s World Health Day celebration, noted, “Ground level ozone can damage lung tissues and is especially harmful for those with asthma and other chronic lung diseases.”
The theme for this year’s World Health Day celebration, which falls on April 7, is, “Protecting Health From Climate Change”. It was selected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in view of the growing threats that climate change presents to international security.
The objective of the theme is to raise awareness of the dangers posed by climate variability and change and to sensitise stakeholders to the health implications of climate change.
Dr Amamoo-Otchere explained that increase in vector-borne diseases such as malaria was the result of climatic conditions, population movement, forest clearance and land-use patterns, fresh water surface configuration, human population density and the population density of dangerous insects.
“Higher temperature, in combination with favourable rainfall patterns, could prolong disease transmission seasons in some locations where certain diseases already exist,” he stressed.
He added that other diseases such as cholera that were caused by alga in polluted water could also become frequent in times of floods.
Dr Amamoo-Otchere, however, pointed out that in some instances, climate change could rather decrease disease transmission because of a reduction in rainfall or temperature that was too high for the transmission of particular vectors, adding that temperature and humidity levels must be sufficient for certain disease-carrying vectors to thrive and mentioned tick which carried a disease called lyme.
In all these, the Ghanaian scientist said of great concern was a pollutant called “particulate matter” or “particle pollution” which was a complex mixture of extreme small particles and liquid droplets which, when breathed in, could reach the deepest regions of the lungs to create health problems.
“Exposure to particle pollution is linked to significant health problems,” he stressed.
He said pollution was also the main cause of visibility impairment in cities and national parks, adding that climate change might indirectly affect the concentration of particulate matter pollution in the air by affecting natural or “biogenic” sources of particulate matter such as wild fires and dust from dry soil.
Dr Amamoo-Otchere stated that a change in the climate impacted on agricultural yields and production, with the most negative effects expected in developing countries.
“If temperature increases beyond optimum thresholds in the tropics, for example, the number of undernourished people in the developing world could increase,” he observed.
To reduce the risks associated with climate change, Dr Amamoo-Otchere called for improved sanitation and risk management of possible epidemics in order to survive the health problems.
He said, for example, that it would be beneficial if Ghanaians changed their style of building, constructed good drainage network, avoided building in flood-prone areas, reduced dry weather dustiness, reduced slum development, among other measures.
He pointed out that although climate change created many problems for mankind, it had some opportunities and pointed out that it was through such changes that nations got oil in the soil.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ministry Revives Nine Irrigation Facilities (Spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
NINE abandoned irrigation facilities have been rehabilitated to enhance the production of rice and vegetables in the country.
To make the facilities fully operational, water pumps are to be installed beginning from the end of this month.
The nine projects are situated at Weija in the Greater Accra Region, Aveyime, Afife and Kpando Torkor in the Volta Region, Sataso and Akumadan in the Ashanti Region, Tanoso and Subingya in the Brong Ahafo Region and Botanga in the Northern Region.
At his turn at the Meet-the-Press series organised by the Ministry of Information and National Orientation in Accra yesterday, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Ernest Akubour Debrah, said the projects were expected to increase the total farming area from 992 hectares in 2006 to 2,326 hectares.
Mr Debrah said a total of 11,630 small-scale farmers would benefit when the facilities became operational, while water-use efficiency of the facilities was expected to increase from 37 to 70 per cent.
The minister said some farmers had been trained under the Joint Irrigation Systems Management (JISM) to take up specific roles and responsibilities with regard to management of the schemes to improve their sustenance.
He said the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA) had prepared a National Irrigation Policy, Strategy and Regulatory Measures to guide irrigation development in Ghana and help reduce the adverse effects of climatic changes on food production.
Mr Debrah said it was evident that the country was self-sufficient in most of its staple food items such as cassava, yam, cocoyam and plantain but yet to achieve self-sufficiency in rice, fish and meat.
Figures from the ministry, he said, indicated that maize production currently stood at 96 per cent; rice production was 33 per cent; cassava production, 199 per cent; yam, 369 per cent; plantain at 131 per cent; cocoyam, 117 per cent; livestock, 30 per cent and fisheries at 58 per cent.
He pointed out that the growth in the agriculture sector had also in recent times been propelled by the strong performance of the cocoa sub-sector, adding that production of cocoa had increased from 389.0 metric tonnes in the 2000/20001 cocoa season to 740.0 metric tonnes in the 2005/2006 cocoa season.
He said to achieve its objectives, the MoFA would continue to supply quality seeds and planting materials to farmers to boost crop production.
Consequently, he said, 250 seed growers were trained in 2007 to produce quality planting materials for sale to other farmers.
Touching on crop loss in the three northern regions because of the floods, he said the Upper East Region lost an estimated 13,880.55 metric tonnes; the Northern Region, 238,682.0 metric tonnes and Upper West Region 4,513.0 metric tonnes of food crops but was quick to add that measures put in place by the sector prevented the area from famine.
Mr Debrah said the government was ready to support the purchasing of machinery to food processors to preserve surplus food and advised Ghanaians to patronise made-in-Ghana food products to encourage the investors to add value to them.
On the Aveyime Rice Project, he said the government had almost completed negotiations with potential investors and what was left was the issue of compensation to some individuals.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Efforts to Develop Herbal Practice (Spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE first batch of graduates in Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Herbal Medicine are to be attached to public and private health facilities in the country to help develop traditional herbal practice.
The graduates, who are 11 in number, pursued a four-year degree programme at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi and completed in 2005.
The graduates have also completed a two-year internship programme and are awaiting to be posted to institutions such as the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) and other health facilities.
This came to light when a delegation from Sierra Leone, led by that country’s Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Soccoh A. Kabia, who was on a working visit, met Ghana’s Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd) in Accra yesterday.
The Sierra Leonean delegation, which is here to learn about some of Ghana’s health sector policies and programmes, included the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Arthur C. Williams, the Human Resource Manager, Dr Anthony Saneh and a Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Mr Tommy T. Tergbeh.
Briefing the delegation, Major Quashigah said Ghana was prepared to support Sierra Leone in the area of expertise, since the Ghanaian situation was better than that of Sierra Leone.
He said the country had gone through numerous stages in its health delivery system, which included the stage where only the cities and big towns had health facilities, to the current situation where almost every community had one facility or another.
The Health Minister said the health sector had operated a Cash and Carry system and now it was promoting National Health Insurance and also the Regenerative Health and Nutrition Programme (RHNP), whereby people were educated to live healthy lives.
Major Quashigah said a lot had been achieved in the area of community health care, where basic health care was provided within eight-kilometre radius under the community-based health programme introduced by the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
For his part, Dr Kabia said the 10-year war in Sierra Leone had affected all sectors of the economy, which was forcing the country to begin all over again. He described the war period as “10 years of total waste for which the Sierra Leonean people are paying a price”.
He said Sierra Leone was ready to learn from Ghana to also move ahead in health care delivery.
According to Dr Kabia, in addition to lack of health professionals, there was also the shortage of general personnel in addition to lack of medical supplies.
The Director of Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PPME) of the MoH, Dr Edward Addai, advised the team to be wary of institutions which came to their aid and insisted on projects and programmes outside their local plans.
He said if that was not prevented, it would be difficult to get programmes which were high on the national agenda implemented, adding that the situation could also lead to double financing of some programmes, while other important ones remained unattended to.
Present at the meeting were the Deputy Director General of the GHS, Dr George Amofah, the Chief Director of the MoH, Alhaji M. N. D. Jawula, the Greater Accra Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Irene Agyepong, the Medical Director of the Ridge Hospital, Dr George Acquaye and the Director of Traditional and Alternative Medicine Directorate, Mr Peter Arhin.
As part of their visit, the delegation was scheduled to pay a visit to the Director General of the GHS, the Chief Executive of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) and also have a tour of the KBTH and the Ridge Hospital, both in Accra.
They would also tour the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi and interact with some health professionals in the Ashanti Region.

“I am Stopping TB” (Page 9)

Article: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
MERCY Boampong, a 27-year-old female teacher was nearly forced to abandon her career when members of the community in which she stayed got to know that she was suffering from tuberculosis (TB).
Although Mercy had started treatment which made her incapable of infecting anyone with the disease, those who knew she had it avoided her completely. She could neither fetch water from the public stand pipe nor go to the market. The painful aspect of the issue was the fact that even members of her church refused to share the same pew with her and when they did, they made sure they sat far from her.
Finally, she asked for transfer to another station outside the region where she believed, she could have the peace to do what she knew best, teaching.
What is tuberculosis (TB)?
At a seminar to equip some health personnel to embark on public education on TB as part of the World TB Day celebration, the Programme Manager of the National TB Control Programme, Dr Frank Bonsu, defined TB as a bacterial disease usually affecting the lungs (pulmonary TB). Other parts of the body can also be affected, for example lymph nodes, kidneys, bones, joints, among other parts which are known as extra-pulmonary TB.
World TB Day
History has it that on March 24, 1882, Dr Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB). During this time, TB killed one out of every seven people living in the United States and Europe. Dr Koch’s discovery was the most important step toward the control and elimination of this deadly disease.
In 1982, a century after Dr Koch's announcement, the first World TB Day was sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD).
The event which had continued till today was intended to educate the public about the devastating health and economic consequences of TB, its effect on developing countries, and its continued tragic impact on global health.
Today, World TB Day is commemorated across the globe with activities as diverse as the locations in which they are held. But more can be done to raise awareness about the effects of TB. Among infectious diseases, TB remains the second leading killer of adults in the world, with more than two million TB-related deaths each year.
Until TB is controlled, World TB Day would not be just a celebration but a valuable opportunity to educate the public about the devastation TB can spread and how it can be stopped.
This year’s celebration has the theme ,“I am Stopping TB” which should be seen as more than a slogan. It is the start of a two-year campaign that belongs to people everywhere who are doing their part to Stop TB.
This year's World TB Day is about celebrating the lives and stories of people affected by TB: Women, men and children who have taken TB treatment; nurses; doctors; researchers; community workers—anyone who has contributed towards the global fight against TB.
In Ghana, the this year’s commemoration has been shifted from the March 24, to March 18, 2008 because March, 24 is Easter Monday which is a public holiday. The event is scheduled to take place at the Jubilee Park in Wa in the Upper West Region.
As part of the programme, the National Planning Committee, in conjunction with the Upper West Regional Directorate and the National TB Control Programme had planned series of activities to mobilise health workers, civil society groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the media and the government to take action as groups and individuals to address issues militating against the control, care and prevention of the disease in Ghana.
At the seminar held in Accra , Dr Bonsu of the National TB Control Programme reiterated that TB could affect anyone of any age but people with weakened immune systems were at increased risk.
He pointed out that TB was spread through the air when a person with untreated pulmonary TB coughs or sneezes. Also, prolonged exposure to a person with untreated TB could usually cause an infection .
What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?
According to Dr Bonsu, the symptoms of TB include fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss and a persistent cough for more than two weeks, among other symptoms. Some people, according to him, may not have obvious symptoms and also most people infected with the germ that causes TB never develop active TB. That condition, Dr Bonsu said, was referred to as latent TB infection.
An individual with TB disease may remain contagious until he or she has been on appropriate treatment for about six months. However, a person with latent TB infection, but not the disease, cannot spread the infection to others, since there are no TB germs in his or her sputum.
All the same, it is important that people with latent TB infection are evaluated for a course of preventive therapy, which usually includes taking anti-tuberculosis medication for six months. People with active TB disease must complete a course of treatment for six months or more.
Initial treatment, according to health personnel, include at least four anti-TB drugs, and the medications might be altered based on laboratory test results. The exact medication plan, they pointed out, must be determined by a physician.
Just like many WHO member countries, Ghana is currently using Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) programmes which are recommended for all TB patients to help them complete their therapy and fully recover. Under DOT, health personnel supervise treatment of patients so that they do not stop treatment mid-way.
TB is a dangerous disease. In addition to spreading the disease to others, an untreated person may become severely ill or die.
The most important way to stop the spread of tuberculosis is for patients to cover the mouth and nose when coughing, and to take all the TB medicine exactly as prescribed by the physician in order to be cured and stop its spread.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Women Advised Against Steriod-Based Drug Abuse (Page 44)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Monday, March 17, 2008)
THE Programme Manager of the National Tuberculosis (TB) Control Programme (NTCP), Dr Frank Bonsu, has advised women to avoid the abuse of steroid-based drugs since that could put them at increased risk of tuberculosis (TB).
He said an example of such steroid-based (cortisteroids) medications was a common drug simply known as “P” and similar ones on the market which some women take without prescription to put on weight.
Dr Bonsu gave the advice at a monthly health promotion programme organised by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) for the public in Accra. This month’s programme, which took place on Tuesday, was on how to prevent the spread of TB.
He said abuse of such medications weakened parts of the human body, which gave way for TB germs to attack without resistance, adding that weakened immune system was a risk factor.
Other risk factors, according to Dr Bonsu, were diabetes, malnutrition, over-crowding, HIV, exposure to an untreated TB patient, among others.
He defined TB as a bacterial disease usually affecting the lungs (pulmonary TB) and said other parts of the body such as lymph nodes, kidneys, bones, joints, liver, testicles and the womb could be affected with the TB germ, adding that a woman who suffered from TB of the womb could suffer from infertility.
He pointed out that TB was spread through the air and also through coughing, sneezing, shouting, singing and talking by a person with untreated pulmonary TB.
According to Dr Bonsu, the symptoms of TB included fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss and persistent cough for more than two weeks, among other symptoms.
He stated about 80 per cent of people who suffered from TB coughed, a situation which made people associate the disease with only coughing.
Describing the disease as very dangerous, he said some of the names used to describe it, apart from TB, were Consumption and White Plague.
Some people, according to him, might not have obvious symptoms and also many people infected with the germ that caused TB never developed active TB. That condition, Dr Bonsu said, was referred to as latent TB infection.
He explained that an individual with TB infection might remain contagious and transmit it to others until he or she had been on appropriate treatment for about six months and, therefore, called for regular tests for early treatment.
Dr Bonsu stated that TB was curable and also free at all government health facilities and some selected health care centres.

Malaria Advocacy Campaign Launched (Page 24, 2008)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Saturday, March 15, 2008)
DISTRICT assemblies have been challenged to critically examine their performance in the application of the one per cent District Assemblies Common Fund for malaria control initiatives to make Ghana a malaria-free country.
At the launch of Ghana Malaria Advocacy Campaign programme in Accra, a Deputy Minister of Health, Dr (Mrs) Gladys Norley Ashietey, said through an Act of Parliament (Act 445 of 1993), the government in its wisdom prescribed the use of the fund to fight malaria, which was the number one killer disease.
The programme was organised by the Ghana Voices for Malaria-Free Future with support from John Hopkins University of the United States Centre for Communication Programme and the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP).
Dr Ashietey expressed the hope that with support from other stakeholders and the right application of the fund, the assemblies would be working towards attaining malaria-free communities as well as a malaria-free Ghana.
The Deputy Health Minister noted that approximately three million malarial cases were registered in the public health care facilities annually while about 13 per cent of all recorded deaths in the country were attributed to the disease.
“Our children and pregnant women who hold the key to the sustainability of our kind are the most vulnerable to the disease,” she stressed.
Dr Ashietey explained that about 61 per cent of children who were admitted to hospitals was due to malaria and eight per cent of pregnant women in our health facilities suffered from malaria.
She said the most frightening was the fact that 18 per cent of all under-five deaths were caused by malaria while nine per cent of all maternal deaths were also caused by the disease.
The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Elias Sory, said there was the need for Ghanaians to fight against malaria, which had cost the country so much.
The Programme Manager of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), Dr Constance Bart-Plange, said it was unfortunate that malaria continued to be a number one killer in spite of the numerous interventions, and called on health professionals to properly diagnose diseases so as to record the correct malarial cases.
The Country Director of Johns Hopkins University/Centre for Communication Programmes, Mr Emmanuel Fiabgey, called on corporate bodies to join the fight against the disease, since it affected their workforce.
Mr Fiabgey, who spoke on behalf of the Voices of Malaria Free Future Advocacy Campaign, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), said there was need to mobilise leadership in government and civic society groups to join the fight.
The Co-ordinator for President Bush’s Malaria Initiative in Ghana, Dr Paul Psychas, said after the president’s visit to Ghana a number of distinguished personalities in the US had shown interest in the fight against the disease, which he said was a good sign.
The chairman for the function who is also the President of the Upper West Regional House of Chiefs and a member of the Council of State, Kuoro Kuri Buktie Limann IV, called for intensification of advocacy in malarial prevention.
Gifts were presented to a number of distinguished personalities who serve as “Voices Against Malaria” in Ghana. They included the Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah; the Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce, Ms Joyce Aryee; and the Ameer and Missionary in charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Maulvi Wahab Adam.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Efforts to Get More People Under Pension Scheme (Page 34)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Chairman of the Pension Reform Implementation Committee (PRIC), Mr T.A. Bediako, has stated that Ghana cannot boast of an acceptable pension scheme when about 85 per cent of its workforce operating in the informal sector are left out.
To change that situation, the new pension reform bill makes provision for the inclusion of workers in the private sector in the proposed pension scheme.
The Presidential Commission on Pensions, set up by President J.A. Kufuor in July 2004, proposed a three-tier scheme. The first consists of a mandatory basic national social security scheme responsible for monthly pensions only; the second scheme is a mandatory, privately managed occupational or work-based scheme to pay lump sums, while the third is a voluntary provident fund and personal pension scheme which can cater for workers in the informal sector and others who want to contribute, in addition to the first two schemes.
Presenting a paper on, “Ensuring Adequate Social Security and Good Pension Governance in Ghana: The Role of the Pension Reform Implementation Committee”, which was organised by the Legal Resource Centre and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) in Accra yesterday, Mr Bediako said to have a better scheme for the Ghanaian worker, the committee looked at schemes in other countries and built on them.
He also said to ensure good pension governance, the PRIC had made proposals in the bill with regard to supervision and management of the new pension scheme in particular, especially the privately managed schemes.
Explaining that point, he said there would be an independent National Pensions Regulatory Authority to supervise, regulate and monitor the new scheme and also ensure that only companies and individuals that met the necessary criteria were allowed to operate.
He said some advantages of the new three-tier pension scheme were improved pension benefit, workers’ control over their benefits and members’ involvement in running the scheme, which could promote a sense of ownership and create confidence that the scheme was being run properly.
In his presentation, the Head of Education and Training of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr David Dorkenu, commended the committee for a good work done but added that there was the need to for the scheme to be properly structured to benefit all stakeholders.
He said looking at the challenges facing some regulatory bodies, such as the National Labour Commission (NLC), in terms of accommodation, he wondered how the Pension Regulatory Authority would be accommodated throughout the country to effectively perform.
He raised the issue of private companies running the second tier of the three-tier scheme and suggested that the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) should be empowered to handle that, in addition the first tier.
Mr Dorkenu concluded that care must be taken to avoid the situation where workers’ contribution would be handed to private individuals who might end up misusing them through high salaries and administrative costs.
In response, the Project Consultant of the Pension Reform Implementation Committee, Mr Daniel Aidoo Mensah, said there were adequate mechanisms in place to check abuse of the system, adding that the only groups which would be allowed to handle money were the custodians, who were banks and insurance companies.
He pointed out that the new scheme was based on World Bank recommendations, though it did not dictate to the country how to go about it.
Mr Aidoo Mensah said after looking at the proposals made by the PRIC, the World Bank commended the committee for a good work done.
The Community Director of the FES, Ms Catherine Meissner, said there was the need for people who had contributed to the economy in their active lives to be well catered for when they went on retirement and, therefore, called on the committee to come up with a better pension scheme for Ghanaian workers.
The General Manager in charge of Operations at SSNIT, Mrs Gifty Anterkyi, said the trust had already begun a pilot project to sensitise workers in the informal sector to join the pension scheme.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Driver & traders in brisk business on Indece day (Page 29)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
IN order not to disrupt their daily objective of earning a living, some traders and commercial drivers on Thursday closed their eyes to the statutory public holiday announced by the government and went about their normal businesses in some commercial areas of Accra.
As is common with all important national events, a statement signed by the Minister of the Interior, Mr Kwamena Bartels, and sent to all media houses on Monday, reminded the general public that the day, Thursday, March 6, 2008, which marked the celebration of the country’s 51st independence anniversary, was a statutory public holiday and should be observed as such throughout the country.
But a chat with some traders in Accra indicated that they had to work to survive and therefore, could not afford to observe the holiday.
A trip from Awoshie, through the streets leading to Kwashieman, Odorkor, Darkuman, Dansoman, Mataheko, Kaneshie, Abossey Okai and Adabraka, revealed that many of the traders, who were usually seen conducting their businesses, had as usual hit the road around 8.30 a.m.
Traffic, although not heavy as usual, had mounted between the road in front of the Accra Academy Senior High School, and the Kaneshie Market Complex when this reporter got there at about 9.30 a.m.
About 80 per cent of the shops lining the streets between the Kaneshie First Light, the traffic lights at Mpamprom and those at Abossey Okai, where mostly vehicle spare parts are sold, were open to customers.
Almost all the shops and stores at the two-storey the Kaneshie Market Complex were open. Traders who sell outside the market were also at their best with shouts to attract buyers.
In front of two shops where second-hand electronics were sold, a sizeable group of people, some with their wares on their heads, were seen watching the independence day parade live on television.
The lorry park close to the Kaneshie Market saw no change in operation as the place was as usual full of commercial vehicles with a number of driver’s mates shouting to attract passengers to their individual destinations.
It was also clear that the number of hawkers, who, on daily basis, occupied the road from the Kaneshie First Light to the Graphic Road at Adabraka, had increased in number.
In an interview, a dealer in hardware along the First Light-Mataheko street, who is known simply as Kwabena, said holidays were meant for government employees but not those in the informal sector.
He said his economic situation did not allow him to rest as much as he would have wanted.
He explained that he was forced to come to sell on Thursday and all other holidays because he usually received many customers on Saturdays and on holidays, since many of those who bought from him were people in the formal sector who were free to shop only on Saturdays and holidays.
Kwaku Samuel, a 21-year-old ice cream seller at the Mpamprom traffic light, said he was a mason who only found time to sell on Saturdays and on holidays.
A tomato seller at the Kaneshie Market, Maame Sarpong, said she could not afford to spend a holiday because she spent all the sales she made daily on her four children and, therefore, had to come to the market on daily basis.
From the Central Business District of Accra, Davina Darko-Mensah and Naa Lartiokor Lartey report that the enthusiasm and excitement that climaxed last year’s Golden Jubilee celebration of the country’s attainment of independence were completely missing this year.
Apart from most streets being quiet, the brisk business in national paraphernalia was also absent.
Traders at the Makola, Railways and Tema stations were rather selling their usual household items as if there was nothing special about the day.
The only place with a semblance of anniversary celebrations was the Kwame Nkrumah Circle where the national flags were hoisted while most major streets in Accra had no flags at all.
From the Ring Road Central to the Danquah Circle, which had lots of flags last year, there was not a single flag at all this year.
There were no miniature flags on cars either.
Along the streets of Accra the independence day fever was not felt either as people went about town ordinarily.
Human and vehicular traffic was not as heavy as it used to be as there were very few people and cars in town. However, the few people the reporter spoke to said the day was not different from any other day.
They explained that the publicity given to last year’s celebrations because it was the golden jubilee made it special hence the enthusiasm by Ghanaians to demonstrate their love and patriotism for their country.
A woman who gave her name as Akuokor Nartey said she was aware the day was independence day, but she preferred to celebrate it quietly.
A male trader, Kwame Opoku Asiedu, said he needed to sell his goods during the day so that he could celebrate in the evening with some friends at a drinking spot.
At the La Pleasure Beach, people were seen trooping with others already dancing to highlife and hiplife music.
There were both foreigners and Ghanaians, though the latter outnumbered the former.
Some hawkers who could not sell all their items made for the Ghana 2008 tournament took the opportunity to sell some T-shirts made in the national colours to the beach goers at the entrance to the beach.

Ghana's Food Situation Not Bad- Minister

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
GHANA has not as yet been affected by the alarming food price increase the world is experiencing.
While the global average food price increase stands at 37 per cent, figures from the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) indicate that increase in food prices in Ghana is at 12 per cent.
This shows that food prices in Ghana are relatively low as compared to elsewhere in the world where countries experience increase as high as 75 per cent.
Information available at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture indicates that the world is currently facing food shortage which experts attribute to a combination of factors, including climate change which brought about floods and droughts and also the shift from fossil fuel to bio-diesel where food items such as grains and legumes had to be processed into fuel.
In an interview with the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Ernest Akubour Debrah, in Accra, he said Ghana’s success story was because of prudent measures taken by the agricultural sector to prevent any catastrophic effects that might affect the country because of global food shortages.
Mr Debrah said in addition to supplying the farmers with high yielding seedlings, one major step that the ministry took which was paying off was the collaboration it had with the association of award winners in the agric sector to motivate them to produce all year round.
Answering why he said Ghana’s food situation was relatively better, the minister said that unlike in previous years, there were still white yams on the market at this time of the year, adding that that was why the consumption of water yams had not started yet.
He also added that vegetables, especially tomatoes, had continued to be on the market all year round and at reasonable prices unlike other times where prices went skyrocketing.
The Food and Agriculture minister added that a study of the market situation by any objective observer could reveal that maize and other legumes were available and at relatively affordable prices.
He said in addition to the effects of climate change and the conversion of grains and legumes to fuel, the high price of fuel and farm inputs and machinery was also a factor.
Other items which the minister said were creating problems in food production include high fertiliser and transportation costs due to high fuel price.
Mr Debrah also said because the global consumption of animal products had increased, large amount of grains was being used to feed animals instead of direct consumption by humans.

Stroke — Who is at risk? (Page 27)

Article: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (10-03-2008)

ON Monday, February 25, 2008, the Daily Graphic carried a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report with the headline, “Daytime dozing — early warning sign of stroke,” which made many readers sit up.
I could say that for a fact because five people, friends and family members, who are aware of my interest in health issues, called me to read that story.
According to the BBC report, which was based on a study conducted by a group of US researchers, regular unintentional daytime dozing may be an early warning sign of stroke in elderly people.
It continued that for those who had a habit of nodding off, the risk of stroke was two to four times higher than for those who never fell asleep in the day.
At an International Stroke Conference, the team advised doctors to check out older people who found they were dropping off in front of the TV.
As part of the research, the study asked 2,000 people how often they dozed off in different situations.
The situations included while watching TV, sitting and talking to someone, sitting quietly after a lunch without alcohol and stopping briefly in traffic while driving.
The risk of stroke over the next two years was 2.6 times greater for people who reported "some dozing" compared to those with no dozing. Among those who reported "significant dozing" the risk was 4.5 times higher.
The researchers also found the risk of heart attack or death from vascular disease was 1.6 per cent higher for moderate dozers and 2.6 per cent higher for significant dozers.
Study leader, Dr Bernadette Boden-Albala, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Columbia University, New York, said: "Those are significant numbers. We were surprised that the impact was that high for such a short period of time."
Previous research has shown that people who suffer from sleep apnoea— short periods when breathing stops during sleep— have an increased stroke risk.
It could be that daytime sleepiness is a sign of sleeping poorly at night because of sleep apnoea.
"Given what's known now, it's worth assessing patients for sleep problems," Dr Boden-Albala said.
"If patients are moderately or significantly dozing, physicians need to think about sending them for further evaluation."
She added that other studies had shown people were not getting enough sleep, making them consistently tired.
"But the real question is: 'What are we doing to our bodies?'. Sleepiness obviously puts us at risk of stroke."
Dr Heinrich Audebert, Consultant Stroke Physician at Guy and St Thomas's Hospital in London said the findings seemed reasonable.
"Sleep apnoea is a risk factor for stroke and in Mediterranean countries the siesta is associated with a little bit of an increased daytime risk of stroke," he said.
After reading this piece, it became evident that it is important if we spend a little of our time to learn about stroke and how it could be prevented.
What is a stroke?
According to health experts, a stroke is the sudden death of brain cells due to a problem with the blood supply. When blood flow to the brain is impaired, oxygen and important nutrients cannot be delivered. The result is abnormal brain function. Blood flow to the brain can be disrupted by either a blockage or rupture of an artery to the brain. A stroke is also referred to as a cerebrovascular accident or CVA.
Signs of Stroke
According to a report posted on the Internet by a group of University of North Carolina researchers, three commands sometimes used by doctors to begin assessing whether a person may be experiencing a stroke can also be useful for people who are not doctors, so as to help themselves or others who might be at risk.
The report said non-health professionals can ask a potential stroke victim to smile, raise both arms or make a simple sentence to determine whether he was suffering from the disease or not.
These three commands, known as the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale (CPSS), are used by health professionals as a simple first step in the assessment process for signs of stroke. If a person has trouble with any of these simple commands, the person should immediately be sent to hospital with a description of the situation, noting that you suspect the individual is having a stroke.
Another report from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke also states that major signs of stroke are the sudden onset of: Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, the loss of voluntary movement and/or sensation may be complete or partial. These may also be associated with tingling sensation in the affected area.
What causes a stroke?
According to health experts, the blockage of an artery in the brain by blood clot (thrombosis) is the most common cause of a stroke. The part of the brain that is supplied by the clotted blood vessel is then deprived of blood and oxygen. The cells of that part of the brain die as a result.
Typically, a clot forms in a small blood vessel within the brain that has previously been narrowed due to the long–term damaging effects of high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes. The resulting strokes are called lacunar strokes because they look like little lakes.
In other situations, usually because of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), a blood clot can obstruct a larger vessel going to the brain, thereby preventing blood supply to the brain through the neck.
Another type of stroke may occur when a blood clot or a piece of atherosclerotic plaque (cholesterol and calcium deposits on the wall of the inside of the heart or artery) breaks loose, travels through open arteries, and lodges in an artery of the brain. When this happens, the flow of oxygen–rich blood to the brain is blocked and a stroke occurs.
This type of stroke is referred to as an embolic stroke.
A cerebral haemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. A cerebral haemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) can cause a stroke by depriving blood and oxygen to parts of the brain. The accumulation of blood from a cerebral haemorrhage can also press on parts of the brain and cause damage.
A subarachnoid haemorrhage is caused by the rupture of a blood vessel that is usually located between the outside of the brain and the inside of the skull. The blood vessel at the point of rupture is often previously abnormal, such as from an aneurysm, which is an abnormal ballooning out of the wall of the vessel. Subarachnoid haemorrhages usually cause a sudden, severe headache and are often complicated by further neurological problems, such as paralysis, coma, and even death.
Overall, the most common risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure and increasing age. Diabetes and certain heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, are other common risk factors.
When strokes occur in younger individuals who are less than 50 years old, less common risk factors are often involved. These risk factors include drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines, ruptured aneurysms, and inherited (genetic) predisposition to blood clotting.
Another example of a genetic predisposition to stroke occurs in a rare condition called homocystinuria, in which there are excessive levels of the chemical homocystine in the body. Another rare cause of stroke is vasculitis, a condition in which the blood vessels become inflamed.
Another report have it that there appears to be a very slight increased occurrence of stroke in people with migraine headache.
What are the treatable risk factors?
Health experts state that some of the most important treatable risk factors for stroke are: High blood pressure, also called hypertension.
This health condition is considered by far the most potent risk factor for stroke. If one’s blood pressure is high, it is important his or her doctor works out an individual strategy to bring it down to the normal range.
To reduce the risks, one needs to maintain proper weight. Avoid drugs known to raise blood pressure. Cut down on salt. Eat fruits and vegetables to increase potassium in diet. Exercise more: A doctor may prescribe medicines that could help lower blood pressure.
Controlling blood pressure will also help one avoid heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.
Avoid cigarette smoking: Cigarette smoking has been linked to the build-up of fatty substances in the carotid artery, the main neck artery supplying blood to the brain. Blockage of this artery is the leading cause of stroke in Americans. Also, nicotine raises blood pressure; carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen one’s blood can carry to the brain; and cigarette smoke makes one’s blood thicker and more likely to clot.
Another risk factor, diabetes, causes destructive changes in the blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain. Treating diabetes can delay the onset of complications that increase the risk of stroke.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Health Sector Has Seen Many Reforms (Page 43)

Compiled by Lucy Adoma Yeboah and Rebecca Quaicoe Duho.

THE health sector, which is one of the critical sectors of the Ghanaian economy, has over the past 50 years played its role through the introduction of many policies and reforms to provide health care to Ghanaians.
These policies and reforms have been assigned to a governmental institution, the Ministry of Health (MoH), with the responsibility to see to their implementation so as to improve the health status of all people living in Ghana to enable them to contribute to the country’s development.
Although the MoH has seen changes in its policies over the years, its main focus of improving the health status of the Ghanaian population through the development and promotion of proactive policies for good health and longevity, the provision of universal access to basic health service, and provision of quality health services which are affordable and accessible, have remained the same.
The MoH has over the years been directly responsible for the provision of public health services delivery in the country until the creation of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in the late 1990s.
Since Ghana’s independence 51 years ago, various governments have been challenged with the task of improving the country’s health care system. 
As part of the country’s Golden Jubilee Celebration last year, Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, the former Director-General of Ghana’s health services, admitted that the country had achieved “mixed success” in its bid to ensure health for all Ghanaians.  
In a report carried by the Voice of America (VOA), Professor Akosa stated that the colonial legacy in the health sector was pretty bad; hospitals had been built for the Europeans, and Ghanaians had virtually nothing to contend with — few medical units to deal with some public health problems, but that was about all.
After independence in 1957, the situation improved, Akosa said. “The first government set out to develop health infrastructure; the government made a bold initiative of starting a medical school in Ghana and starting with employing Ghanaians.”
Prof Akosa added that Ghana’s first medical school became “one of the best” of such schools in the world. “Graduates from the medical school were everywhere,” he said. But, he explained, Ghana receded into terms of quality health care when subsequent governments failed to invest in the system.
“We have a policy that every district should have a hospital … but this is difficult to accomplish because building a hospital is a lot of money. And, therefore, we are heavily reliant on support from donors … So what I will say is that the amount of investment in health certainly has not been the best. And I think this would be applicable to all regimes. Some people have invested more in health; others have not,” he revealed.
As a policy, Ghana operated a cost-recovery health delivery system known infamously as the ‘cash-and-carry’ system since 1985, whereby patients were required to pay up-front for health services at government clinics and hospitals. That, however, pushed health care far beyond the reach of the ordinary Ghanaian until the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2003.
Health Sector Reforms
Ghana’s health sector has had many reforms. The most recent reform that has been in process since the early 1990s has been finally documented in what is popularly known as “Medium Term Health Strategy, 1996-2000”. It aims at improving access to health services, quality of care and efficiency, strengthening links with other sectors such as the Ministries of Agriculture and Education which also have health components in their activities or impact on the health of people (Ministry of Health, 1996). Its main achievement or focus has been the introduction of user fees.
The introduction of user fees in Ghana has also been a component of a range of strategies that are part of an international health reform agenda. They are linked to a broad set of public sector reform ideas and initiatives collectively known as the ‘new public management’ (NPM).
The NPM in the health sector has other policies apart from the user fees — decentralisation of the health sector with changes in organisational management and culture, and autonomous hospital boards and deregulation, and regulation of the private sector.
The main objectives of these policies are achievement of sustainable financing of health services, quality improvement, and equity with respect to access.
Institution of User Fees and Exemption of the Poor
Fees for health services in public facilities, first introduced in 1971, were very low and aimed at reducing unnecessary use of services rather than to generate revenue.
The fees were raised slightly in July 1983 and increased substantially in July 1985 when a new hospital act was passed under the military regime of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), aimed at recovering at least 15 per cent of operational costs.
Initially, the Act allowed health centres and clinics to retain only 25 per cent of the revenue from fees collected while hospitals were allowed to retain 50 per cent. In 1990, this provision was amended and some public health institutions were selected for a pilot programme and allowed to keep all revenue generated from user fees.
In 1992, the new fees were implemented nation-wide as the government, influenced by multilateral donors, abandoned a phased implementation procedure started in 1990. Since then, a decentralised system of charging fees has been operating in the public health facilities and all revenue has been retained for operational or non-salary budget. Budget surpluses that are not invested in improving the quality of care are sent to the Ministry of Health (MoH).
A revolving fund for drugs was initiated in 1992 by which all health institutions were to recover the full cost of drugs and keep this revenue to purchase drugs only. An overhead cost of 10-15 per cent is added and the full cost was revised in line with inflation.
The public health facilities also charged other fees for the following: Out Patient Department (OPD) cards and initial registration, consultation, admissions, gloves gauze, needles and syringes. Informal fees with various shades of legality and unauthorised fees were also collected from users.
Implementation of Ghana’s Health User Fee Policy and the Exemption of the Poor.
The 1992 law, however, has a clause providing for exemption for the poor and treatment of emergencies whether patients are in a position to pay immediately or not. It does not indicate the criteria by which the poor can be identified though — whether by income, geographical area, occupation, etc.
Health workers were just instructed to use their discretion to grant exemption to anyone who said he/she could not afford fees. They later applied for refund from government, the exemptions that they granted.
The implementation of the new user fee was described by some as successful with respect to revenue generation despite some registered abuses. Revenue raising dominated other concerns and was at the expense of health care needs, to the extent that the exemption clause had been either ignored or just labelled as difficult to implement, even in clear-cut cases where exemption could be granted.
The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)
In March 2004, President John Agyekum Kufuor launched a National Insurance Health Scheme designed to offer affordable medical care, especially to the poor and vulnerable among Ghana’s 19 million people.
Under the scheme, adult Ghanaians are paying a yearly minimum subscription of GH¢7.20. In addition to free services to contributors to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and SSNIT pensioners, the government is catering for health treatment of the aged, the poor as well as children of parents who both subscribe to the scheme.
Currently, about 50 per cent of Ghanaians have registered under the scheme, which covers all districts in the country under District Mutual Health Insurance Schemes (DMHISs).
New Health Policy.
Currently, the health sector has initiated a new health policy that emphasises health promotion and prevention of ill-health in the promotion of healthy lifestyles, behavioural changes and healthy environment.
Dubbed, “Regenerative Health and Nutrition Programme”, the health sector is educating Ghanaians on the need to reduce their salt, sugar, fat and alcohol intake and rather drink enough water, consume vegetables and fruits, have physical exercises and enough rest to live healthily. The programme has the theme — “Renew Your Strength-Prevent Diseases”.
With this and other policies previously introduced, the health sector believes the country would be relieved of most of its health problems such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, cholera, measles, typhoid, tuberculosis, chicken pox, yellow fever, trachoma, and river blindness.
Others are guinea worm, various kinds of dysentery, river blindness or onchocerciasis, pneumonia, dehydration, venereal diseases, poliomyelitis and malnutrition, among others.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Political Activities Highten Road Accidents-Study (page 19)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Sat. March 1, 2008)
THE country’s annual average figure of about 1,600 road accident fatalities rose to 2,185 in 2004 as against, a situation attributed partly to political activities during the year.
Since 2008 is an election year, road safety officals are therefore, cautioning politicians and road users to be careful on the roads in order not to repeat the trend.
The Deputy Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation of the National Roads Safety Commission (NRSC), Mr David Osafo Adonteng, said during the year (2004), many people moved around within the country either to campaign or participate in political rallies, sometimes driving at high speed to beat time or driving for long distances without stopping to rest.
He also observed that many of the nation’s security agencies which helped in traffic regulations had to suspend those duties to either accompany political leaders on political tours or monitor political activities in other parts of the country.
At a meeting with two road safety officials from Lesotho to share Ghana’s experience in road safety campaign in Accra on Tuesday, Mr Adonteng said in that same year, a total of 12,164 road traffic accidents occurred in the country compared to 10,644 accidents in 2003 and 11,305 in 2005.
Statistics on distribution of road fatalities by age for between 2000 and 2006 indicated that 23.5 per cent of deaths were people aged between 26 and 35 followed by those between 16 and 25 years, who constituted 18.0 per cent. The lowest is those aged more that 65 years who constituted 4.8 per cent of the fatalities.
Mr Adonteng also said more men died in road traffic accidents than women, citing the 2004 figures where he said 1,568 men died as against 587 women.
He explained that women were considered more careful on the road and also the fact that not many of them drove long distances, which brought about fatigue, which caused accidents.
On regional basis, Ashanti Region topped the chart with 22 per cent, followed by Eastern Region with 17 per cent, Greater Accra Region, 14 per cent, Central Region, 11 per cent, Brong Ahafo Region, 10 per cent, Volta Region, eight per cent, Western Region, eight per cent, Northern Region six per cent, Upper East Region, three per cent and the least affected, which is the Upper West Region, recorded one per cent.
He pointed out that the economic loss to the nation due to those accidents was 1.6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was about US$100 billion.
He attributed accidents on the roads to unsafe driving, which included impatience, recklessness and irresponsibility, excessive loading, driving under the influence of alcohol high speed and fatigue on the part of drivers, deficiencies in vehicle fitness, insufficient enforcement of laws and disabled vehicles.
Briefing the officials from Lesotho, Mr Adonteng said in spite of those figures, Ghana was said to be doing well in road safety, adding that while Ghana recorded an average of 1,600 deaths in a year, South Africa recorded about 10,000 deaths.
He also stated that the national figures of 23 deaths per 10,000 vehicles had reduced to 22 deaths per 10,000 vehicles as against 43.1 in Tanzania.
He debunked the notion that Ghana was among the first three countries in the world which were affected by road accidents, adding that “we are not even among the first 50 countries”.
Mr Adonteng said the NRSC was working hard to reduce road traffic fatalities systematically on a yearly basis to a single digit by 2015 just as in Denmark, adding that the causes of between 50 per cent and 65 per cent accidents stemmed from attitude of drivers, which the commission was doing well to change through education and law enforcement.
He advised drivers to desist from using cellphones while driving, adding that “presently we are waiting to get the Legislative Instrument (LI) which prevents that and when we get it, offenders will not be spared”.
The two Lesotho road safety officials who visited the country for three days, were Mr Neo Khoaele, a senior instructor, and Ms Madrass Mojai, an information officer.