Thursday, February 26, 2009

Facilitate Mental Health Bill (Spread)

BasicNeeds, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which cares for people affected with mental health, has urged the government to treat the Mental Health Bill separately and to also facilitate its passage.
It said it was rather unfortunate for the bill, which was sent to Parliament in 2008 had to wait until a whole new bill had been made to include other areas of health delivery.
The Country Programme Manager of BasicNeeds, Mr Peter Yaro, said there was the need for the government to consider the bill as soon as possible, since it had been dealt with adequately to satisfy the standard required by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He said when passed into law, the document could provide the legal backing to ensure the provision of adequate resources for the care of mental health patients in the country.
Mr Yaro said these in Accra yesterday after the opening ceremony of a three-day training on the theme: “Training of Mental Health Self-Help Groups on the Local Government System and Decentralisation in Ghana”.
Participants in the programme, which was sponsored by the European Union (EU), were made up of mental health patients whose conditions had stabilised as well as those of their care givers.
Mr Yaro, however, expressed regret that there were only three public psychiatric hospitals in the country and described the figure as woefully inadequate to serve the needs of the whole population.
He said BasicNeeds took it upon itself to organise the three-day training for the affected individuals to equip them with the requisite knowledge to enable them to fight for their needs, especially at the community level.
February 25, 2009)

He pointed out that in spite of the many civil society groups who advocated on behalf of vulnerable groups such as women, children and the physically challenged, issues of mental health were usually left untouched.
“That is the more reason why those who are affected should be trained in order to enable them to do things for themselves,” he stated.
Mr Yaro said one issue that had affected mental health patients was stigmatisation, and explained that with the introduction of community-based health care by the WHO, that situation could be minimised as people in the community would be witnesses to the improvement of the patients as they received treatment and, therefore, accept them as cured.
For his part, the Project Research Officer of BasicNeeds, Mr Evans Oheneba-Mensah, told the Daily Graphic that mental illness involved various types of diseases which affected the brain, and mentioned psychosis, epilepsy and depression, among others.
He said with the help of other institutions, both locally and internationally, BasicNeeds was caring for about 1,530 patients and their care givers in the Accra metropolis alone.
Mr Oheneba-Mensah said the assistance was in the area of treatment, organisation of meetings to enable them to interact and share experiences and provide financial assistance as well support them to earn a living in various vocations.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Govt Receive Draft Budget From Think Tank (Spread)

THE government’s economic think tank and officials of the Ministry of Finance have presented a draft budget to President J.E.A. Mills and his Cabinet for consideration and approval.
According to an official of the Ministry of Finance, the date for the presentation of the document, which is officially known as The Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana, would be determined after it had finally come back from Cabinet.
He said the draft budget was expected to reflect the new government’s aspirations.
The budget, which is going to be President Mills’s first since he assumed office on January 7, 2009, is expected to satisfy a wide range of Ghanaians, some of whom had already presented proposals to that effect.
For its part, the Ghana Employers Association (GEA) has said it expects the government to allocate more resources in to tackle national productivity, industrial attachment incentives and improvement of employable skills and energy and consumer protection against illicit trade.
The Executive Secretary of the GEA, Mr Alex Frimpong, told the Daily Graphic that the association was leading a crusade with the tripartite committee to establish production indicators in all sectors of the economy, including mining and construction, manufacturing and services.
He said the Management Development and Productivity Institute (MDPI), a training agency under the Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment, should be well resourced to carry out the exercise, which he said “is critical to national competitiveness”.
Many private sector organisations and companies have performance targets which help them to increase productivity.
Mr Frimpong said employers and academia had been working closely on how to improve employable skills of tertiary students even before they left school.
He said employers also expected some commitments to support that cause to make fresh graduates more skilful to forestall employers’ misgivings over the skills level of the graduates being churned out from tertiary institutions.
A previous budget made the proposal but, in spite of the extensive consultations between employers and the Ministry of Finance, its implementation did not happen.
Some exporters and local importers have taken advantage of the country’s liberal market system to bring in all forms of substandard products that sell cheaper than their local rivals, a phenomenon that some economists believe also has a component of dumping.
Fortunately, President Mills, in his inaugural speech, pledged to protect locally made products from such unbridled influx of substandard goods, a pledge the GEA wants to see implemented or committed to in the forthcoming budget.
Already, the GEA, in collaboration with regulatory bodies and private sector associations such as the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), the Ghana Standards Board (GSB) and the Food and Drugs Board (FDB), is crusading for policy changes to check the influx.
On energy, the GEA drove home the need for consistent injection of resources to gradually meet the energy needs of the country, adding that the government should not go to sleep over the ephemeral respite the country was enjoying.
For its part, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) expressed the hope that the budget would commit resources to the expansion of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), which it described as an effective vehicle for job creation and “one of the most important initiatives the government has taken in recent times”, reports Emmanuel Bonney.
The TUC said the NYEP was an important national programme that had the potential of creating decent jobs for the youth across the country, as the high rate of unemployment and underemployment among the youth posed a great danger to the social and political stability of the country.
It also described the programme as one of the few large-scale national programmes that were truly owned in terms of policy initiative and financing and repeated its call for an evaluation of the NYEP to provide a guide for a review.
It pointed out that its own evaluation of the programme had revealed that workers employed under the programme were being paid below the national minimum wage, saying that they were receiving their salaries irregularly and in some cases salaries were delayed for more than five months.
The TUC said although the programme was designed to create half a million jobs by the end of 2009, official reports showed that it had created 108,000 jobs by the end of 2007 and that at the time of the evaluation in 2008 the recruitment of new workers under the NYEP had been suspended due to lack of funds.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

President Mills to Deliver First State of the Nation Address (Front Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
PRESIDENT John Atta Mills will deliver his first State of the Nation Address in Parliament House today. This comes with high expectations from Ghanaians on how he intends to deliver on his “I-care-for-you” promises.
Views from organised labour and some individuals who shared their expectations with the Daily Graphic indicated that in spite of the global recession, Ghanaians still expected the President to deliver what would inspire the people for socio-economic development.
Article 67 of the 1992 Republican Constitution provides that, "The President shall, at the beginning of each session of Parliament and before a dissolution of Parliament, deliver to Parliament a message on the state of the nation."
Since the underlying word there is 'shall' and not 'may', legal experts explain that 'shall' signifies mandatory or obligation, which is without option and, therefore, makes it mandatory for all presidents to perform that constitutional duty.
At his inauguration on January 7, 2009, Professor Mills pledged the dawn of a new era and a change for a better Ghana, a promise many Ghanaians would want to see reflected in his first major policy statement to the nation.
On that eventful occasion on January 7, President Mills emphasised that the change was not just for the sake of it but a change in a new direction to move the country forward.
The President promised the nation that the least that he could do was to work hard in order to help to achieve a better Ghana, adding, “Improvement in internal security will be one of my top priorities.”
He further gave the assurance that his administration would not pursue the politics of power and privilege but “rather, we will ensure that we listen to the people and address their concerns”.
Ahead of the address, a former Chairman of the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), Mr Kwame Pianim, said whatever the President’s vision and plans would be, they should not include any plan to subsidise water, electricity and petroleum products if his government was to succeed in restoring the balance sheet of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Volta River Authority (VRA), reports Musah Yahya Jafaru.
He said Ghana was in a difficult economic situation due to the global credit crunch and that Ghanaians must be made to pay the full cost of water, electricity and petroleum products, arguing that the payment of the full cost of utilities would “stop the weakening of state finances”.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC), for its part, said the country’s quest to reduce poverty would continue to be a mirage in the absence of a clear vision to provide people with decent jobs.
“Taking into account the small base and weak capacity of the private formal sector to create decent employment for the large number of people who are either unemployed or underemployed, we advocated the direct involvement of the government in the creation of jobs for the youth,” it said.
It said it, therefore, supported the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) which was launched in 2006.
The TUC said in a similar view expressed in 2007, “we noted that one of the most important initiatives the government has taken in recent times is the NYEP”.
It called on the government to expand and commit more resources to the NYEP to make it a source of employment for the youth to gain experience for the competitive job market.
“The way to achieving the target of half a million jobs by the end of 2009 and to sustain the programme over a longer period is to provide adequate resources and ensure that the resources are properly managed,” it said.
A Secretary for Religious Affairs in the erstwhile Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) administration, Mr Isaac Kwadjo Obeng (Tugya), for his part, called on President Mills to use the occasion to preach unity as a tool for socio-economic development.
He also reminded Prof Mills of his promise to be father to all Ghanaians, calling on him to demonstrate that in his first sessional address.
He also advised Ghanaians to change their attitudes in order to make the nation governable for President Mills.
“We must help our President to help us. If we do not change our attitude, there is little Prof Mills can do for us. Not even Jesus Christ can solve our problems if we do not change our attitudes,” he said.
According to a government source, the President’s address will focus on the economy, employment, education, health care, gender issues, national unity, among others.
Those who expected to be present at the ceremony are the Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama; the Speaker of Parliament, Mrs Justice Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo; the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, as well as Members of Parliament (MPs).
The rest are Service Commanders, members of the Diplomatic Corps, religious leaders, traditional rulers, politicians, civil society groups and the general public.

Illegal Power Tappers to Face Stiffer Punishment (Page 3)

Wednesday Feb 18, 2008

THE Minister for Energy, Dr Joe Oteng-Adjei, says he intends to liaise with Parliament to introduce new laws which would provide stiffer punishment for people who use illegal means to tap energy from the national grid.
Outlining the government’s vision for the energy sector on his first day in office, he said his mandate was to work towards ensuring availability and accessibility of power to every Ghanaian.
He therefore declared his opposition to the situation where a few criminals would use illegal means to tap from the nation’s resources.
He said the time had come for the country to generate more energy and export some to boost the national economy.
Dr Oteng-Adjei pointed out that since he had served as the Director of Power at the ministry for about 10 years, he was aware of the challenges facing the energy sector and therefore poised to confront them together with his team.
To ensure that every part of the country was supplied with the needed energy, the Minister said the Ministry would continue with the rural electrification programme as well as initiate new programmes.
In addition, Dr Oteng-Adjei indicated that the sector would be made to effectively play its role in creating employment.
He pointed out that it was high time the country pushed the perennial energy shortage behind it adding that the age-long problem of power shortage could be solved if issues of the energy sector was taken seriously by all.
Dr Oteng-Adjei took the opportunity to challenge people in the various communities to be vigilant and bold to detect and report to the security agencies those who connect power illegally.
He stressed that through the activities of people who indulge in illegal connection, the country lost 10 to 12 percent of revenue that was accrue from energy supply and gave the hint that those criminals would not have it easy under his administration.
He said it was important for the rest of the people to find ways of telling those criminals to “leave us alone” to enjoy the power which we paid for instead of them making use without paying.
The Minister said the energy sector was crucial when it comes to the country’s economic growth as well as poverty alleviation and pointed out that it would be better if suggestions from people with the requisite knowledge were welcomed and incorporated into the ministry’s programme.
When he was asked whether the new government would continue with the Bui Hydroelectric Project, Dr Oteng-Adjei was emphatic that the project would have to be continued.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New ministers report for duty (Spread)

ALL the 10 ministers who were sworn in by the President, Professor J.E.A. Mills, on Friday, February 13, 2009 reported for duty yesterday.
When a team from the Daily Graphic began its visit to the Ministries about 11 a.m., some of the ministers were at meetings with their management staff and, therefore, could not talk to the reporter.
Further enquiries indicated that ministers who doubled as Members of Parliament (MPs) had reported earlier at their various ministries but left for a meeting at Parliament House.
The new ministers include Mr Alex Tettey-Enyo for Education; Mr Cletus Avoka, Interior; Ms Akua Sena Dansua, Women and Children's Affairs; Mrs Juliana Azumah-Mensah, Tourism, and Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, Local Government and Rural Development.
The rest are Mr Joe Gidisu, Roads and Highways; Mr Collins Dauda, Lands and Natural Resources; Dr Kwabena Duffour, Finance and Economic Planning; Dr Joe Oteng Adjei, Energy, and Mr Mike Hammah, Transport.
About 12.50 p.m. when the team got to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the reporter was informed by the secretarial staff at the minister’s office that Dr Duffour was in a meeting.
In an interview, his Chief Director, Nana Juaben-Boaten Siriboe, confirmed that the minister had reported for duty early in the day and had gone ahead to start work.
At the Ministry of Energy, Dr Oteng Adjei was also in a meeting with heads of units under his ministry.
In an interview later, he said the ministry was going to go after people who indulged in illegal connection of electricity, since the country lost between 10 and 12 per cent of the revenue from energy to such activities.
He reiterated that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government would continue with all the good projects started by the previous government, adding that the plan to review some of them did not mean that those projects would be stopped.
At the Ministry Lands and Natural Resources, an official said that the Minister, Mr Collins Dauda, had earlier interacted with the staff and urged them to do their best for the development of the sector.
A public relations officer at the Ministry of Roads and Highways, Mr Patrick Boachie, told this reporter in an interview that the Minister, Mr Joe Gidisu, had reported for duty but later had to leave for a meeting outside the office.
The same was said of Mrs Azumah-Mensah at the Tourism Ministry.
When the 10 ministers were sworn into office at the Castle, Osu, at the weekend, President Mills challenged them to avoid ostentatious and extravagant lifestyles.
He said he decided to swear them into office immediately after their nominations had been approved by Parliament to indicate that "we are hitting the ground running now".

Ghana to Fight Polio (Mirror)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

AS a result of the successful implementation of the national polio vaccination days (NIDs), Ghana was removed from the list of polio endemic countries in 2003.
Consequently, the announcement some few days ago that eight wild poliomyelitis (polio) cases had been confirmed in the Northern Region from August to November last year is worrying to many Ghanaians. Polio is described as an acute viral disease that is easily spread from human contact and can kill or cripple children for life.
But, according to official reports from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, these cases likely stemmed from northern Nigeria — a high-risk region for polio.
To prevent the situation from becoming a major national health issue, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has put in place a programme to vaccinate 4.8 million children against the disease through two rounds of a nation-wide polio immunisation campaign scheduled from February 12 to 14, 2009 for the first round and March 26 to 28, 2009 for the second round.
Vitamin A supplementation will be added during the first round of the exercise and about 4.3 million children aged six months to five years will benefit.
The campaign, which was launched in Accra, is part of a joint programme organised by eight West African countries to eradicate polio from the sub-region.
The countries are Benin, Togo, Niger, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
Speaking at the launch, the Programme Manager for the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), Dr K. Antwi-Agyei, said a lot of progress had been made since the country began polio eradication programmes in 1996.
The programme manager gave the assurance that the disease could be controlled if the right things were done and said receiving repeated doses of the vaccine was not harmful in any way to children but a definite way to ensure the interruption of circulation of the disease.
For his part, the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Elias Sory, described the exercise as very important, as the aim of the health sector was to interrupt the circulation of the polio virus through the combined effort of synchronising the campaign across eight countries.
He took the opportunity to advise parents to ensure that their children below five years were immunised.
In an attempt to increase coverage of immunisation, Ghana, from the year 2000, changed its strategy of immunising children at fixed locations to using mobile vaccination teams who visited the target groups from house to house.
Information available at the EPI under the GHS indicated that nearly four million children received two supplemental doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) each year.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Budget to prioritise fiscal deficit (Spread)

A source within the government’s economic team has dropped the hint that the priority of the 2009 Budget would be to address the country’s fiscal deficit that currently stands at 13.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The budget, according to the source, would also address the problem of ensuring effective resource mobilisation so as to prevent the current situation where about 70 per cent of revenue mobilised from taxes was used to pay public sector wages and salaries.
According to the source, the draft budget would be ready by Monday, February 16, 2009 for presentation to the Cabinet.
The source indicated that the team had received inputs from ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), as well as from various stakeholders for the preparation of the document.
A report carried by the Daily Graphic last month indicated that the first budget under the Mills administration was expected to be ready for Cabinet scrutiny by February 15, 2009 and subsequently to be presented to Parliament by March 31, 2009.
The Director of Budget at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwabena Adjei-Mensah, told the Daily Graphic in that report that preparatory work to get a budget for the year had begun.
Mr Adjei-Mensah stated that personnel at the ministry were poised to complete the work in accordance with a timetable presented to the ministry by the Subcommittee on Finance of the transitional team, which was February 15.
The Minister of Finance designate, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, said at his vetting by the Appointments Committee on Tuesday, that his immediate focus would be to reduce the deficit, a potential economic crippling phenomenon, to between eight and 10 per cent and to three per cent in the medium term.
Meanwhile, government business is currently being run on a financial statement prepared earlier by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, to enable the new administration to operate smoothly for the first quarter of the year.
That statement was laid before the House by former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Anthony Osei-Akoto, in advance of appropriation for January to March, 2009 and the estimates of revenue and expenditure of the government for the 2009 fiscal year.

Affordable Houses not allocated to NPP functionaries (Front Page)

(Wednesday February 11, 2009)
A FORMER Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface, has denied that 719 out of the 3,000 housing units under the government’s Affordable Housing Scheme have been allocated to functionaries and agents of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government.
The former minister stressed that there were records to show that 200 out of the said houses had been allocated to the Ministry of the Interior to be given to personnel of the Ghana Police Service, adding that the identities of those policemen were not known to the ministry.
Reacting to a story in the Monday, February 9, 2009 issue of the Daily Graphic, Alhaji Boniface disagreed that the houses at Borteyman and Kpone in the Greater Accra Region had been sold to persons believed to be connected to the immediate past government.
He noted, however, that some of the institutions which submitted applications and were given the offer to purchase some of the houses were the Office of the former President, as well as that of the former Vice-President, adding that those offices qualified to make such requests, since there were public servants working there.
He also said the housing units, which were currently at various levels of construction, were 5,994 and not 3,000, as was reported.
Alhaji Boniface pointed out that the houses had been allocated based on applications received from individual Ghanaians, as well as some institutions which made the requests on behalf of their staff, noting that all the applications were on file at the ministry.
The former minister explained further that the procedure for giving out the houses was not based on political connections but rather on first-come-first-served basis.
He, however, agreed that some of the beneficiaries could belong to the NPP, as well as other political parties, adding that the ministry would not know who belonged to which political party, since the applications did not include political party affiliations.
He pointed out that before he took over as the minister, his predecessor, Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, had already allocated 130 housing units to some individuals.
He took the opportunity to deny reports that he signed letters for the sale of the houses in January 2009, adding that the letters were drafted for him in November and he signed them in December 2008, together with the one which allowed occupants of low-cost houses in other parts of the country to purchase them.
Alhaji Boniface said it was important for people to note that the houses were first and foremost offered for sale but not given out for free, adding that an applicant had to pay a deposit of GH¢4,000 out of GH¢25,000 for a two-bedroom house and the rest of the payment spread over 16 years.
The former minister said the fact that some of the applicants bore similar surnames as the former President, Mr J. A. Kufuor, did not automatically make them relations of the former President, as portrayed by the report.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Health Insurance schemes owe GH¢38m (Back Page)

SOME of the 145 District Mutual Health Insurance Schemes (DMHISs) nationwide face imminent collapse if GH¢38 million they owe service providers under the Ghana Health Service (GHS) is not paid by the end of this month.
At a meeting in Kumasi at the beginning of January, the service providers threatened to demand payment from insured persons before they would be taken care of and demanded the payment of all outstanding debts by the end of this month.
When he was contacted to comment on the issue, the Director General of the GHS, Dr Elias Sory, confirmed the decision taken by the facilities and said instead of paying their debts, some of the schemes rather used the money meant for operating the schemes to invest in other ventures.
He pointed out that there was no way the facilities could continue to care for the insured persons without getting back what had already been spent.
Dr Sory observed that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) being a new programme was facing some challenges. As a way out, he said he had suggested that Parliament should have a second look at a portion of the National Health Insurance Act of 2003, Act (650), which gives the individual DMHISs the power of autonomy.
Dr Sory noted that as the law stood now, the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) could not stop such acts by the schemes, since they (the schemes) were autonomous and could take any decisions they deemed fit.
He observed that is was also expensive to run the schemes on individual basis and said many of the district schemes did not have the capacity to operate efficiently.
In a reaction, the Media Relations Manager of NHIA, Mr Kwasi Acquah, said even though the authority was aware that the schemes were owing some facilities, it had not as yet received all the figures involved.

Public wants courtesy calls on President Mills regulated (political page)

Monday February 9,2009

SOME members of the public have complained about the number of groups that pay courtesy calls on the President J.E.A Mills on a daily basis, adding that such calls could delay administrative work at the Presidency.
In addition to a man who identified himself as Evans Lartey through a telephone chat with the Daily Graphic on Friday over the issue, other people who the paper spoke to, expressed similar sentiments.
When contacted, a source at the State Protocol Department indicated that each day, the President received an average of five groups, which usually stretched continually between 9.00am to 5.00pm.
According to the source, what the public see on television and read in the newspapers were just a tip of the iceberg, since many of the visits were not captured on camera.
Without disputing the significance of such courtesies in the Ghanaian context, those who spoke to the Daily Graphic had the opinion that the visits should be limited to umbrella bodies, instead of all those splinter groups which troop to the Castle on a daily basis.
They also suggested that other methods, such as written congratulatory messages, could serve the same purpose in some cases.
A 50-year-old proprietor of a private educational institution at Sowutuom in Accra, Mr Yaw Boakye-Agyemang, said if the practice was allowed to continue, the President would be forced to use his first 100 days in office only on receiving visitors, while his actual work remained undone.
“Won’t it be enough for a body like the National House of Chiefs to visit the President on behalf of all chiefs, instead of individual chiefs going to the Castle as well?” He asked.
For his part, Mr Albert Salia, a journalist, said pledging their support for the President could be in the form of writing, instead of paying personal visits.
“Prior to the election, the various groups shared their views and needs with the then candidate Mills and if he had won the election, all they need to do is to remind him of his promises to them and the reciprocal support him through writing,” he said.
Mr Salia said some of those groups did not even want to associate with him when he was candidate Mills, but all kinds of groups were now “ambushing” him, instead of allowing him to concentrate on his work.
He said the four-year mandate given to President Mills started immediately after he was sworn in and that “every second, minute and hour wasted form part of that four-year period”.
A 32-year-old dressmaker, Ms Phyllis Narh, who described herself as a National Democratic Congress (NDC) supporter, said apart from disturbing the President, these groups spent a lot of money in travelling from all over the country to Accra for such visits, adding that one should also consider the risk involved in doing that.
Ms Narh suggested that officials of the State Protocol Department who managed such programmes at the Presidency should find diplomatic ways of curtailing such visits, since, although significant, had the tendency to create problems.
Ms Dorcas Boateng, a student at the University of Ghana, Legon, said she felt uncomfortable anytime she saw the President on television welcoming more than two groups a day to the Castle.
“President Mills should be allowed to sit behind his desk and work, so that we all can benefit,” she stressed.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dr Irene Agyepong — Makes Ghana proud (Mirror Page 3)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dr Irene Agyepong, the newly selected occupant of the Prince Claus Chair, has revealed the secret behind her flying success — ‘consider God as your employer and endeavour to offer your best to please Him’.
In a hearty chat with The Mirror, Dr Agyepong, a Health Expert, who is also the Greater Accra Regional Director of Health Services, says accomplishments are sweeter when they come while one is serving God and country.
“In everything I do, I should be able to add something positive to the development of my country,” she stressed.
Born in August 1960, the soft-spoken shy, Kwahu public health practitioner said much of her modest achievement was based on her desire to move forward in life, no matter the odds, and acknowledged the role played by her parents, Godfried and Margaret Agyepong who hailed from Kwaku Abetifi and Atibie respectively. Of course, she did not leave out her husband, Reverend Curtis Amartefio, a Teshie born Pastor at the Riches of Glory Church, Adenta, whom she described as very supportive and understanding.
Her desire to help reduce diseases and pain in society motivated her to enrol in the University of Ghana Medical School in 1986, together with nine other young women and 60 young men.
Today, on the recommendation of the Curatorium of the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity, the Board of Utrecht University has appointed Dr Agyepong as occupant of the Prince Claus Chair.
She will hold the chair for two years until the end of August 2010. Dr Agyepong, according to the university, will conduct research into health care in Africa.
The Prince Claus Chair is an academic chair in the area of international development held on a rotating basis and established by Utrecht University and the Institute of Social Studies.
Dr Agyepong will give her inaugural lecture on May, 28, 2009 in the Academiegebouw (University Hall) in Utrecht.
Dr Agyepong, effectively called Akua, said she did not know about the honour, let alone apply for it, but explained that the application was made on her behalf by the chairman of an international research-based committee, the Netherlands African Clinical Trials and Capacity Building Against Poverty-Related Diseases, which she had served on since 2004.
“In my dealings with the committee, the chairman might have noticed something good in me and decided to put my name on the list without first telling me about it,” she pointed out.
She explained that the committee combined scientific research with investment in Africa to support the fight against diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Dr Agyepong was among the first three people to be shortlisted for the chair. She went for an interview early last year and was selected, ahead of the other competitors. Meet her for the first time and you will easily learn that she believes in investing in research into public health and the development of health policies.
“Whenever a critical political decision has to be made, there is no time to first set up a research programme and then wait for the results. The great advantage of a good research centre in Africa is that it supports the local health system, studies trends and provides answers to tomorrow’s political questions.”
She was once quoted to have said that “strengthening of the health care systems in Africa must be an integral part of the current focus on poverty-related illnesses, such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.”
In addition to her job as the Director of Health Services, Professor Agyepong works as a part-time lecturer at the School of Public Health at the University of Ghana Medical School, where she helps in capacity building. She also continues to work as a researcher on a wide range of health-related issues.
When she was asked how she manages to combine all these together with her role as a pastor’s wife and mother of four children. Dr Agyepong said she believed in proper time management. “I often work on my laptop, while moving in and out of work, and also anytime I attend a meeting and the other people are not ready, I do not sit idle, but continue to work on the laptop”.
She described herself as a shy person (and rightly so) who has tried hard to grow out of her shyness. She said she believed in fairness, justice and truth, which sometimes made people think that she was too difficult.
To her, “if it is not yours don’t take it!” She also believes that the best thing to do is to save another human being in any way possible. “People say I am critical when I annoy them, but when I please them, they say I am analytical”.
Dr Agyepong is a member of the NWO/NACCAP Programme Committee, which combines scientific research with investment in Africa to support the fight against diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
The institution which honoured her, the Curatorium of the Prince Claus Chair, established in 2003, in honour of Prince Claus of the Netherlands (1926-2002), is chaired by Princess Máxima. Outstanding young academics from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean or the Pacific are eligible to hold the chair. The holder is appointed by the Utrecht University and the Institute of Social Studies to promote research and education in international development.
The chair has previously been held by Prof. Alcinda Honwana (Mozambique), Prof. Nasira Jabeen (Pakistan), Prof. Rema Hammami (Palestine), Prof. Gaspar Rivera Salgado (Mexico), Prof. Amina Mama (Nigeria/South Africa) and Prof. Mansoob Murshed (Bangladesh).
After her first degree at the Ghana Medical School, she attended Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, University of Liverpool in 1991, West African College of Physicians- Public Health (Part 1) in 1992 in Nigeria, as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Public Health, where she specialised in Health Policy and Administration/Public Health Leadership in 2000.
The celebrated health expert has served in various capacities in the Ghana Health Service since she worked as House Officer at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, the Department of Internal Medicine, between 1986 and 1987.
She has more than 40 works, most of them published to her credit, and that explains why she was able to receive such a prestigious honour which serves as an inspiration to many Ghanaian women.
Dr Agyepong, who is the first of four children (two boys and two girls), had a piece of advice for girls — learn to move higher in life and don’t allow anything to push you down. Quoting from Churchill, Dr Agyepong said “if you find yourself in hell move on, you might move out of it”.
She lamented that society was not doing much in the area of counselling, and suggested that there should be counselling centres to counsel young people who failed in one area or another to try something else.

Land Guards Invade Weija (Back Page)

(Friday February 6, 2009)
LAND guards are reported to have resumed their activities of terror against property owners in and around Weija.
According to landowners in the area, they are being forced by land guards to abandon developing their properties or to part with various sums of money as digging fees.
The mode of operation of the land guards, according to some affected individuals, is that a group of land guards will demand a fee that range between GH¢100 and GH¢300 before the owners are allowed to carry on with their projects.
They said sometimes, after parting with the amount, another group would appear a few days later to make fresh demands, which must also be fulfilled.
The land guards, who residents say are mostly young men, are allegedly armed with all sorts of gadgets and move in groups ready to deal with anybody who attempt to disobey or challenge them.
According to some affected individuals, the land guards claim to operate on the orders of heads of factions that derive their authority from the Ashley and Sackey families of Weija. The factions, according to sources, emerged after the last Weija chief from the Sackey Family died few years ago.
The sources explained that in addition to the multiple fees being charged by the various groups, land guards within the Ashley Family had decided to revoke all previous agreements made during the reign of the former chief and were now demanding new fees from developers.
A number of plot owners who made separate calls to the Daily Graphic within the past week said they felt unsafe to go to the area let alone attempt to develop plots they had acquired and fully paid for.
One such caller told the Daily Graphic on Monday that workers she employed to erect a wall around her plot were chased out with guns, clubs and machetes and the structure was later demolished.
According to the woman, she was made to pay to one group earlier in the week but two days later, another group came and when the workers challenged them, the guards beat them up and chased them (the workers) away.
Another said he was a witness to an incident where a resident’s attempt to sink a manhole in a house he was already living in attracted the wrath of the land guards who demanded that he paid GH¢200.
After the man had reportedly pleaded to be allowed to pay GH¢50, the group collected it, went away and returned two days later to push the sand back into the pit, seized the working tools from the workers and went away with them.
Enquiries made by this paper revealed that seized tools were allegedly deposited at the office of one of the stool fathers (Dzaasetse), at an area called Upper Weija.
Another victim, one Charles, said workers he hired to work on his plot late last year were harassed till they decided to abandon the project, adding that when he tried to intervene, he was given death threats till he abandoned the project.
“My sister, I have decided to forget about the plot although I paid GH¢400 for it in 2004. My life is more important than any property on earth,” he stressed.
An elderly resident who said he had lived at Upper Weija for the past five years said the residents had to abandon their attempt to develop a spot into a lorry park. According to him, the land guards demanded fees from them and they told the guards it was a community project, but they persisted and the residents had to abandon the project.
When the Daily Graphic contacted the Weija Divisional Police Commander, DSP John Animpong, on telephone yesterday, he said he had not yet received any complaints on the activities of the land guards.
In other places in Accra, sources said more than 1,200 workers of the Customs, Excise and Preventive (CEPS), the Internal Revenue Services (IRS), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), as well those of the Barclays Bank who acquired about 2,000 plots of land at Achiaman, a settlement near Amasaman in the Ga West District of the Greater Accra Region, were being forced by land guards to abandon the plots.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Significance of Wetlands (Feature)

January 30, 2009
WORLD Wetlands Day is celebrated globally on February 2 each year. The day marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) which took place in the city of Ramsar in Iran on February 2, 1971.
World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997. Since then governmental agencies, non-governmental organisations , groups and institutions have celebrated the day by undertaking activities to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits as well as promote the conservation and rational use of wetlands.
Wetlands encompass many different habitats including ponds, marshes as well as swamps. They are areas where land and water meet and are wet for an ecologically significant part of the year. Plants and animals found in wetlands are from land and water habitats and thus making wetlands highly productive environments.
As has already been pointed out, wetlands are lands where water covers the soil or is present either at or near the soil's surface all year or for varying parts of the year including during the growing season. The amount of water saturation at such areas is the main determining factor of how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil.
There is great variation among types of wetlands because of soil differences both regionally and locally, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation, and other factors including human disturbance.
Wetlands support both aquatic and terrestrial species, many of which are both numerous and unusual, because the prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favour the growth of specially adapted plants and promotes the development of characteristic wetland soils. Amphibians and reptiles are especially dependent on healthy wetlands because they need both wet and dry areas to breed.
It is important to acknowledge that any endangered species needs wetlands to survive.
To celebrate World Wetlands Day, many activities are organised each year throughout the world. These include seminars, nature walks, festivals, launches of new policies, announcement of new Ramsar sites, newspaper articles, radio interviews and wetland rehabilitation.
In Ghana, the institution responsible for the celebration of the Day is the Wetlands Division of the Forestry C Commission (FC) under the Ministry of Mines, Lands and Forestry.
This year the international theme for World Wetlands Day is "Upstream-Downstream: Wetlands connect us all" and the suggested slogan is – “Upstream – Downstream”.
This, according to international conservationists is in recognition of how interconnected mankind is within river basins and the impact that human activities upstream have on the lower parts of a river catchment. For this reason, World Wetlands Day 2009 aims to raise awareness on how people can support healthy rivers and assess how their actions affect those downstream.
Looking at the importance of wetlands, it has become necessary over the years to celebrate Wetlands Day to enable us remind ourselves of the numerous benefits we derive from those natural resources.
For their functions, wetlands provide habitat for plants and animals such as amphibians, fish, reptiles, mammals and birds
Wetlands help control flood waters by acting like a giant sponge, absorbing water during heavy rainfall then slowly releasing it back into the ecosystem.
Wetlands can assist in erosion control as they are often located between water bodies and high ground. The roots of the vegetation help to protect soil from high impact events such as wave action or heavy rainfall events.
They are important culturally and for recreational activities
and in addition, wetlands enhance water quality as they act like giant kidneys, purifying and processing nutrients as well as suspended materials and other pollutants.
In Ghana, one can easily find wetlands at the limited Ramsar sites which serve as the relaxation and feeding grounds for over 70 water bird species. The sites also serve as the breeding grounds for about three marine turtle’s species.
The sites include the Densu Delta Ramsar Site, the Sakumono Ramsar Site, and the Songor Ramsar Site.
People interested in managing water bodies will tell you that sustainable river basin management is extremely important to maintain the functions and ecosystems services of a wetland. That to some of us, was the main reason why the theme for this year is about river basins and their management.
It is important to note that we all live in a river basin or drainage basin, catchment, watershed, among others and most of the people are well aware of the challenges of managing these resources and particularly the challenge of making sure that the basin planners think of wetlands and not just water in their planning.
It is therefore important that as the world celebrates this year’s World Wetlands Day, there will be an opportunity for people to look around at their own wetlands and their interconnections with the environment around it, how the wetland benefits the surroundings and, of course, how activities throughout the river basin may affect their wetlands.
The suggested slogan for this year , “Upstream – Downstream” , captures this sense of how interconnected humans beings are within the river basin, how people can be impacted by the activities of those upstream and how their activities affect those downstream.
As we celebrate the day with the rest of the world today, it is the hope of environmentalists that Ghanaians will acknowledge the importance of wetlands and recognise the role they play to ensure our survival as humans.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Call for alternative fire fighting system (page 3)

A Ghanaian geologist, Dr Emmanuel Amamoo-Otchere, has called for the establishment of what he termed community-based alternative fire fighting systems to help fight fires swiftly in localities.
He also suggested that occupants of markets such as Kantamanto, Makola and Kaneshie, all in Accra, as well as Kotokuraba in Cape Coast and Market Circle in Takoradi, should be willing to support the creation of mini fire fighting units within their locations at their own cost for their safety and that of their wares.
In a paper titled, “Developing Alternative Community-Based Fire Fighting Systems”, Dr Amamoo-Otchere, who is a spatial planning consultant, development geoinformation services, pointed out that such a system should be maintained with technical back-up by the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) which had the technical know-how, as well as the responsibility, to prevent fires in the country.
He said the creation of community-based fire fighting systems could be backed with bye-laws to make them compulsory in all communities.
In addition to the metropolitan and municipal authorities working with the banks and insurance companies to raise funds to create the fire-prevention systems, Dr Amamoo-Otchere called for a form of susu system which could be arranged in the communities to raise funds for the project, without waiting for external assistance.
He said it was unfortunate that many Ghanaians were not proactive when it came to the prevention of disasters but usually waited till serious harm had been caused, only for those in authority to rush to the victims with promises which came from taxpayers, adding that citizens should be made to know and appreciate community-based self-protection against such hazards.
He explained that specific environments such as what existed at the Kantamanto Market and which usually promoted fires would remain and develop further in the next few years until the informal commercial sector of small-scale traders had no more incentives to carry on with that sub-sector of the urban economy.

Youth need functional education (education page)


THE Founder of Gifted And Talented Education (GATE), an educational non-governmental organisation, Mr Anis Haffar, has said that effective measures should be applied for providing functional education to the Ghanaian youth to make them useful to society.
Mr Haffar complained that Ghanaian students spent too much time behind their desks without doing anything practical work to improve their lot and that of the community.
He told the Daily Graphic in Accra that the period a person spends in school should not be an issue but rather the availability of quality education which could help develop the society.
Mr Haffar, whose organisation deals in teacher in-service training, said much had been said about the length of time needed to complete this or that education programme. The important thing is to take meaningful steps to get the right materials for teaching and learning at all times.
He said the ideal situation was for the government to take into consideration the need to provide adequate materials and the needed human resource, when it introduced the four-year educational programme and said if three years would be used and used profitably, then so be it.
It is good to change the programme to three years if that was what the nation could afford, he stated.
Mr Haffar noted that it was frustrating when an unemployed youth was unable to say specifically what he would do and only tell a prospective employer that he will do whatever he was asked to do.
That statement, he pointed out, was not encouraging and wondered how anybody could employ a person who had no practical training and might not be able to add value to an organisation when employed.
He said his experiences in the communities had revealed that a lot of talents abound in the Ghanaian youth and said what was important was the necessary push to be given them and they would do great things.
Mr Haffar stressed the need to make students spend less time behind their desks but rather move to the communities to learn how to use their hands to do things.
He advised that educational issues should not be politicised but the best education be provided for the Ghanaian child who had talents just like any child elsewhere and even better in some instances.
The youth should be helped to develop usable skills as soon as possible, and those skills should add value to every community they find themselves in,he stressed.