Thursday, November 26, 2009

Govt to set up special fund for HIV/AIDS (Back Page)

THE Government of Ghana is planning to establish a special fund for HIV and AIDS activities in the country.
This is to ensure continuous flow of resources to enable the country to achieve the desired impact without always relying on external support.
This was made known by the Presidential Advisor on Social and Development Issues, Professor Francis Dodoo, at a two-day partnership forum organised by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) in Accra yesterday.
It was part of activities for the next phase of the implementation of the Multi-sector HIV and AIDS Programme (MSHAP) with the objective of bringing development partners and other stakeholders together to work and agree on the 2010 annual programme of work (APOW).
Present at the forum were the Director-General of the GAC, Dr Angela El-Adas, some health personnel, security agents and public sector officials involved in issues of HIV and AIDS.
In an interview after the opening ceremony, Prof Dodoo said the government was currently looking at the form the fund would take but pointed out that it would be established by next year.
He said the government was committed to supporting the GAC to achieve the targets set under the Abuja Declaration, which dealt with universal access of HIV and AIDS services.
For his part, the Programme Manager of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), Dr Nii Akwei Addo, pointed out that although HIV prevalence in Ghana had stabilised for some time now, that did not call for celebration, since there was the possibility of moving backwards.
The country rate of HIV infection is currently 1.7 per cent.
He stated that out of the targeted 40,000 people in advanced stage of HIV infection who needed to be provided with anti-retroviral therapy, 31,401 had been covered as of September 2009, saying the country was working hard to achieve its objectives.
Dr Addo also touched on the high incidence of syphilis in the Central Region over the years, saying that the situation must be looked at critically.
Speaking on behalf of the development partners, the Country Co-ordinator of the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) in Ghana, Dr Leo Zekeng, said the country had made some progress towards the attainment of the universal access targets, notably in the areas of comprehensive service provision, mobilisation of financial resources, greater involvement of people living with HIV and AIDS, as well as mobilisation and evaluation.
He said by June 2009 counselling and testing was available in 524 sites nation-wide, adding that a consistent and focused “know your status” campaign was running concurrently to promote the availability of HIV and AIDS services.
The Director of Technical Services of the GAC, Dr Richard Amenyah, said under the set goals of the national strategic framework for 2006-2010, the GAC was working to reduce new HIV infections among vulnerable groups and the general public, mitigate the impact of the disease, promote healthy lifestyles, among other interventions.
He gave the assurance that the GAC and the other stakeholders would work harder in the months ahead to get as closer as possible to the set targets.

New pension scheme to be implemented in phases

THE implementation of the new three-tier pension scheme, scheduled to start from January next year, will be carried out in phases to ensure smooth transition.
To make issues clearer to the working public, the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) says it will come out with a detailed timetable and guidelines before the scheme kick-starts.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Project Consultant to the NPRA, Mr Daniel Aidoo Mensah, said since there existed different pension schemes (Social Security and National Insurance Trust and CAP30) as well as workers in both the formal and informal sectors, the timetable would come out with the period at which each group could join the scheme.
He said to get the public to have a better understanding of the issues involved, the authority would from November 24, 2009 begin organising a series of educational programmes for selected media practitioners and other identifiable social commentators to enable them to adequately educate others on the new scheme.
Mr Mensah said that would make issues much easier to understand by both the formal and informal sector workers and also ensure a smooth changeover from the existing schemes to the new one.
The new pension scheme, which was established under the National Pension Act 766 of 2008, is to provide for pension reform in the country by the introduction of a contributory three-tier pension scheme.
It is also to see to the establishment of a National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) to oversee the administration and management of registered pension schemes and trustees of registered schemes as well as the establishment of a Social Security and National Insurance Trust to manage the basic national social security scheme.
This scheme will cater for the first-tier of the contributory three-tier scheme and provide for other related matters.
President John Evans Atta Mills officially launched the National Pension Scheme on September 16, 2009 in Accra and emphasised the need for a vigorous public education and awareness raising campaign.
The authority has so far come out with a 10-member board of directors which has for the past few months been preparing for the start of the scheme in January next year.
The Chairman of the board is Mr Kwame Asante, a renowned Chartered Accountant.
To achieve the desired objective in the area of awareness creation, the board has decided that before any comprehensive campaign could begin, a training programme should be organised for media personnel and other identifiable social commentators on the main essentials of the scheme throughout the country.
Touching on the training programmes, Mr Mensah said the authority had acknowledged the importance of awareness creation, hence the decision to organise them throughout the country.
He explained that the programme would be held for management level editors, selected government officials, reporters and presenters, public relations officers (PROs) and media analysts, adding that they would be taken through topics such as: “The Need for Pension Reform”; “Structure of the New Scheme”; “Benefits of the New Pension Scheme” and “Governance and Safeguards and Informal Sector”.
Mr Mensah said the objective of the programme was to raise awareness about the major highlights of the new pension scheme among a particular target audience, especially media practitioners.
He said that would allow the media personnel and analysts to sufficiently play their role as educators on the schemes as well as provide the opportunity for networking among those who would want to specialise in reporting on the new scheme.

Commission invites NAGRAT, GES (Spread)

THE National Labour Commission (NLC) says it has invited the executive of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Ghana Education Service (GES) to an emergency meeting today over the impending strike by NAGRAT.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the Public Affairs Officer of the NLC, Mr Mohammed Affum, said the meeting would enable the commission to look at how to resolve complaints over reduction of car maintenance and responsibility allowances being made by the teachers.
The commission cautioned the association not to go ahead with the strike, since it would be considered illegal.
“It cannot go on strike because the requirements for a strike have not been fulfilled under the circumstance,” he said.
Throwing more light on the legality or otherwise of the intended strike, Mr Affum said NAGRAT had not followed the procedure for seeking redress under the Labour Act and pointed out that no complaint had so far been made to the NLC, which had the mandate to resolve differences between employers and employees.
He said NAGRAT, after reaching a deadlock with the GES over the issue of lowering of conditions of service, should have complained to the NLC, which would have called for mediation or even arbitration, if no agreement was reached.
A front-page story carried by the Daily Graphic on Wednesday indicated that graduate teachers in the country, under the umbrella of NAGRAT, were up in arms again, ready to lay down their tools from Monday, November 30 as a result of what they claimed as the lowering of their conditions of service.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SWINE FLU SCARE-Lincoln School Victims Confined (Front Page)

THE latest outbreak of the H1N1 influenza in the country, which has brought the total number of cases to 43, has led to the confinement of 18 students of the Lincoln International School in Accra as they undergo treatment, following the closure of the school.
As the students who tested positive to the swine flu remained confined to their homes, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) also launched a national awareness and sensitisation programme on the flu with a call for more attention on schools.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the Director of Public Health of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Joseph Amankwah, said to prevent further spread of the disease, all persons identified to have had contact with the affected children, as well as their household members, were also being treated.
As a further measure to contain the situation, Dr Amankwah said a doctor had been stationed at the school compound to take samples from persons who might come back with symptoms of the influenza as they stayed at home.
He said seven children who were coughing reported back to the doctor yesterday to be tested.
The school, with about 700 pupils and situated at Abelenkpe, a residential area in Accra, was closed by the GHS because 18 of the pupils tested positive for the H1N1 influenza.
Dr Amankwah explained that as a preventive measure, health personnel who treated infected persons and all other persons who had contact with infected persons were given preventive treatment without waiting for them to show signs of the disease.
He said the preventive treatment took five days of medication, instead of the 10 days stipulated for treating a sick person.
A sudden rise in the number of H1N1 influenza cases in the country has forced the GHS to order the closure of the school.
With the first recorded case in Ghana in August 2009, the figure has shot up to 43 by yesterday, with 18 of them being pupils of Lincoln.
Apart from the first two patients who were admitted at the Aviation Hospital in August, all others were confined and treated in their homes.
In an interview in Accra yesterday, the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Elias K. Sory, said the school had to be closed to prevent large-scale transmission among the children who belonged to the high-risk group as far as the influenza was concerned.
Explaining how the disease was detected in the school, Dr Sory said its authorities reported to health workers when they realised that many of the children were suffering from cold-like illnesses and when a series of tests were conducted among them, the virus was detected.
He explained that the school had to be closed down because the number detected at that point in time was on the high side, which called for that action to prevent any dangerous situation.
He said since there was the likelihood that other pupils in the school might have had contact with the 18 patients, each of them, together with the members of staff, had been offered some form of treatment as a preventive measure.
Dr Sory said with the change in weather, it was likely that many people might be infected with the virus and mistakenly take it to be ordinary cold.
He, therefore, advised that persons with symptoms of ordinary cold should immediately report to a health facility for early diagnosis and treatment.
Unlike elsewhere, so far no deaths have been recorded in Ghana since the disease broke out globally in April this year.
Dr Sory observed that what made the issue of the pandemic disturbing was the fact that it was new and different from all existing influenza pandemics, a situation which made its behaviour difficult to predict.
The director general took the opportunity to advise the public to be on the look out for and report all diseases which presented symptoms of the influenza.
The 2009 flu pandemic or swine flu is a global outbreak of a new strain of influenza A virus sub-type H1N1 that was first identified in April 2009.
The outbreak was first observed in Mexico, with evidence that there had been an ongoing epidemic for months before it was officially recognised as such.
The Mexican government closed most of Mexico City's public and private facilities in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.
However, the virus continued to spread globally, while clinics were overwhelmed by people inflicted.
Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stopped counting all cases and focused on tracking major outbreaks.
On June 11, 2009, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.
It indicated that while only mild symptoms were experienced by the majority of people, some had more severe symptoms which could be fatal.
Mild symptoms, according to the WHO, might include fever, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle or joint pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea.
Those at risk of a more severe infection include asthmatics, diabetics, those suffering from obesity, heart disease, the immuno-compromised, children with neuro-developmental conditions and pregnant women.
Similar to other influenza viruses, pandemic H1N1 is typically contracted by person-to-person transmission through respiratory droplets.
To avoid spreading the infection, health workers recommend that those with symptoms should stay home, away from school, work and crowded places. Those with more severe symptoms or those in an at-risk-group may benefit from antivirals.
Meanwhile, at the launch of the NADMO educational programme, its Co-ordinator, Mr Kofi Portuphy, said the move had been necessary due to the sudden surge of the pandemic among schoolchildren in the country.
He said there was the need to intensify the campaign on awareness of the pandemic to educate people on preventive measures, as prevention of disasters was its mission.
The signs of swine flu may include fever, cough, running nose, body ache and chills. Others may include tiredness, diarrhoea, vomiting and headache. Complications of the disease may include pneumonia and difficulty in breathing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Budget 2010 Statement-POULTRY FARMERS UPBEAT (Front Page)

THE Poultry Farmers Association of Ghana has welcomed the government’s intervention for the revival of the domestic poultry industry, saying its success or failure will depend on how the provisions in the 2010 budget are given a practical implementation.
Responding to the government’s projections in the budget for revamping the industry, the President of the association, Mr Kenneth Quartey, pointed out that “everything will depend on how the objectives stated in the budget are implemented”.
He said the long period during which imported poultry products were dumped on Ghana had eroded both the fixed and working capitals of many of the members of the association, to the extent that there was the need for a special package to help them revamp the sector.
Presenting the budget in Parliament on Wednesday, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning placed a heavy premium on agriculture and touched on the government’s objective of seeing to it that Ghana was able to meet the domestic demand for fish and poultry by the year 2012.
Dr Duffuor observed that the government was aware of the threats posed by the indiscriminate dumping of goods and services on the country, thereby making domestic production uncompetitive, adding that even in sectors such as food and agriculture where the country had comparative advantage, indiscriminate importation had robbed it of the benefits of domestic production.
To cut down on imports of poultry and fish into the country, the Finance Minister hinted that the government would levy duties on those imports and support local production, adding that “the target is that Ghana should be able to meet the domestic demand for fish and poultry by the year 2012”.
“The government will also assist poultry farmers to acquire equipment, chicken feed, chemicals and other inputs to enable them to undertake large-scale chicken production in the country,” he pointed out.
Lauding the measures, Mr Quartey said Ghanaian farmers were capable of feeding the nation, provided they were given the right push and incentives, adding that before the market became flooded with foreign products, it was the local farmers who provided for the local market.
He reiterated that the assistance being promised by the government should include a special package which could help farmers to be strong on their feet to deliver, not short-term loans which members could not afford to repay.
He explained that if poultry farmers were assisted with loans with high interest rates from commercial banks, they might not be able to turn it round to make the needed impact.
In addition, he said, since the sector had gone down for such a long time, it would take some time for it to really come up to an appreciable level, adding, “The situation cannot change overnight.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Budget lacks ambition -NPP (Spread)

HE Minority Spokesman on Finance, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, has described the 2010 budget as one lacking ambition in terms of spurring economic growth.
He said that was not surprising, considering the government’s dealings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Dr Akoto Osei, who is the Minority Spokesman on Finance, explained that by committing itself to IMF programmes, the NDC government had been very limited in terms of its ambitions for economic growth.
He said that was not surprising, considering the government’s dealings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Dr Akoto Osei, who is the Minority Spokesman on Finance, explained that by committing itself to IMF programmes, the NDC government had been very limited in terms of its ambitions for economic growth.
“In an IMF programme, if you get too ambitious, the economy will collapse,” he stated.
He explained further that with the IMF model, growth is residual and rather the emphasis was on stabilisation and “tightening the belt”.
He, however, said growth was critical, stressing that an over-bearing emphasis on the reduction of deficit was not healthy.
“Economic management is not just about deficit reduction. If you tighten up too much, you go into a recession. For a social democratic government, they have to ask themselves “where are we getting ourselves into?”
He said the restoration of import duties on food items such as rice and wheat gave an indication that the government needed revenue to meet its targets.
He said an NPP government would not have gone to the IMF, adding that the recognition of the need to promote growth had prompted the NPP to get out of the IMF programme in 2006.
He said it was important the government adopted measures to protect domestic production of food items but cautioned that care must be taken when putting taxes on imported stable foods in order not to make them too expensive for the ordinary person.
However, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, who was one-time Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in the Kufuor regime, said he is impressed with the government’s attempt at using the 2010 budget to stabilise the cedi against the major foreign currencies.
Mr Osafo-Maafo, however, said the budget did not come up with strategies to raise domestic revenue, which, he said, had dropped.
On his part, the Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Mr James Klutse Avedzi disagreed with the views of Dr Akoto Osei, stressing that the government was on the right track.
He said when the government assumed power this year, there were so many undisclosed arrears, which they became aware of in the course of the year.
He said the growth rate of 6.5 per cent targeted for 2010 was realistic, stressing that there was no point in setting targets that could not be attained.
Mr Avedzi said because of the global economic recession, average growth in the world was between two and three per cent, hence 6.5 per cent growth was ambitious enough.
On the restoration of the import duties on some food items such as rice and wheat, Mr Avedzi explained that the NPP government created a mess by removing those taxes.
He said the idea was that the reduction in prices would be passed on to the consumers but that had not been the case as the middlemen were rather the beneficiaries.
A former Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, said this year’s budget did not come up with anything new apart from the introduction of taxes and tariffs on food items, which the previous government withdrew, as well as few areas where costs were going to be cut.
Mr Agyeman-Manu, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Dormaa West, said without any knowledge of the volume of local rice production, the government was rushing to cut down on importation of rice, which was considered a stable food in Ghana.
He also said there was also no single statement in the budget to encourage workers to do more apart from the old issue of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS), whose implementation period had elapsed.
“All the social interventions which the Finance Minister talked about were introduced by the NPP. He was forced to continue with them because they had already begun,” he stated.
The MP for Akwatia, Dr Kofi Asare, said he did not hear anything significant being said about the health sector, adding that if the highlights of the budget was anything to go by, then it was tantamount to collapsing the health sector.
The MP for Juabeso, Mr Sampson Ahi, was in full support of the government’s intention of re-introducing tariffs on imported rice so as to encourage local production, adding that it could help increase employment locally.
Mr Ahi also expressed gratitude to the government for giving indication that it would pay bonuses to cocoa farmers and also on time.
For his part, the NDC MP for Sege, Mr Alfred Abayeteye, said that the 2010 budget would put things right for effective growth.
He called on Ghanaians to be nationalistic and rally behind the government to achieve the laudable goals set in the budget.
“This is not the time to share blame. All hands should be on deck for the betterment of Ghana,” he said.
The NDC MP for Nadowli West, Mr Mathias Puozaa, is a rural-friendly budget since all the initiatives set out would enhance the living standards of the rural folks.
He mentioned policies under the agriculture and education sectors as clear indications of the government’s intention to better the lot of rural people.

Shop owners, Tata bus drivers heading for collusion (Metro Page)

SHOP owners along the Kaneshie main road have appealed to the city authorities to stop trotro drivers from parking in front of their shops.
The traders who operate along the road between the Kaneshie First Light and the first overhead bridge opposite the Kaneshie Market Complex said they were gradually becoming bankrupt because the buses prevented customers from seeing and buying their wares.
The traders, who deal mainly in hardware, building materials, stationery, toiletries, electrical appliances, cement and household wares, complained about the hostile attitude of the drivers who were making life unbearable for them.
In separate interviews with the traders, many of them told the Daily Graphic that they were being frustrated by the drivers hence their plea to the city authorities through the media.
“My sister, we find it difficult to understand why the city guards allow these buses to park all day along the road but move in quickly to clamp smaller vehicles whose drivers park to buy from us. Is it a way of preventing us from getting our daily bread?”, 26-year-old Joojo queried.
According to the traders, those long Tata buses used to park near the second bridge near Mpamprom until last June when a heavy downpour in Accra destroyed that portion of the road.
They said the drivers moved to the present location with the excuse that they would move back after the road had been rehabilitated but had failed to do so months after the rehabilitation work has been completed.
The traders complained that apart from blocking their wares from prospective buyers, the bus drivers and their mates also use the road as a dumping site where they off-loaded refuse from the buses onto the street each morning.
In addition, the traders alleged that the drivers and their mates used the road as their bathroom where they wash down each morning and also clean their vehicles.
A dealer in hardware, 32-year-old Mr Martin Korle, told the Daily Graphic that the attitude of the drivers was making them lose customers which should not be allowed to continue now that Christmas was approaching.
Another trader alleged that the issue had been reported to the Kaneshie police but no action had been taken on the matter.
A dealer in cosmetics who is known only as Connie said her sales had dropped to about 60 per cent since the buses began parking in front of her shop.
She said if the trend continued, she and many of the shop owners might find it difficult to pay their taxes and loans they had contracted from the banks.
A gentleman who trades in paint said that few days ago, a truck pusher who asked a driver to park well to enable him load some items from a shop had his head hit with a a metal by a driver’s mate on one of the buses.
Auntie Yaa, one of the traders, said the earlier the city authorities found a solution to the problem, the better since they could not continue to look on unconcerned as the drivers prevented them from making sales.
“We might end up organising street protests if nothing is done about the situation. Our businesses are going down gradually and no one seems to care”, she lamented.
“The other time one of the drivers picked a fight with one of the shop owners here and it took the intervention of passers-by to avert bloodshed”, another trader told this reporter.
A visit to the area revealed that the way the buses were parked, sometimes extending to the middle of the road, contributed significantly to the heavy traffic situation on the road.
At about 9.30 am today when the Daily Graphic visited the place, about 10 long buses were seen parked close to the other, preventing anybody who would want to walk to any of the shops from doing so.
There was no way any vehicle could park to buy from any of the shops since the whole area was already congested with those long Tata buses.
In one of the buses, this writer saw a young man pouring out what looked like urine through a small opening on the side of the bus onto the road.

2010 Budget Statement-PUSH FOR AGRIC (Front Page)

AGRICULTURE, with emphasis on the local production of rice, fish, poultry and livestock, has been handed a massive impetus in the government’s 2010 budget and financial statement.
The measures, as contained in the budget statement read by the Finance Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, in Parliament yesterday, included the restoration of duties on imported rice, wheat, yellow maize and vegetable oil which were removed during the food crisis of 2008.
With an overall objective to modernise agriculture, the budget introduced a number of initiatives to also change the face of rural Ghana, increase the scale of production and productivity, enhance food security, create employment opportunities and cut down on the use of foreign exchange for food imports.
“The target is that Ghana should be able to meet the domestic demand for fish and poultry by the year 2012,” it said.
“The strategy to replace hoes and cutlasses, as the main implements of production, with tractors, power tillers and bullock ploughs still remains in place,” Dr Duffuor said.
He indicated that the government would promote large-scale public-private commercial framing, provide agricultural machinery and equipment, enhance their distribution and provide resources to rehabilitate irrigation schemes, particularly the Tono and Vea Irrigation schemes.
Throwing more light on the issue, the Finance Minister said the project would be supported by the standardisation and improvement in the quality of seeds, double the production of millet and sorghum by 2012, as well as double the cultivation of vegetables and provide training to increase technology and the knowledge content of aspects of food crop value chain.
He stated that the government was aware of the threats posed by the indiscriminate dumping of goods and services in the country, thereby making domestic production uncompetitive, adding that even in sectors such as food and agriculture where the country had competitive advantage, indiscriminate importation had robbed it of the benefits of domestic production.
To cut down on imports of poultry and fish into the country, Dr Duffuor hinted that the government would levy duties on those imports and support local production, adding that “the target is that Ghana should be able to meet the domestic demand for fish and poultry by the year 2012”.
He stated that to ensure that the target was achieved, the government would support farmers through the provision of standardised and quality rice seedlings, machinery and equipment, chemicals and fertilisers and also look at the issue of high cost of production attributable mainly to the high interest rates charged by commercial banks.
In addition, he said it would, as a matter of importance, support fish production by constructing fish landing sites and cold stores in the main fishing towns along the coast, as well as supply high-powered outboard motors to fishermen.
“The government will also assist poultry farmers to acquire equipment, chicken feed, chemicals and other inputs to enable them to undertake large-scale chicken production in the country,” he pointed out.
On cocoa production, Dr Duffuor said the government was looking at hitting 1,000,000 metric tonnes by 2012, adding that that was why it was encouraging cocoa farmers by paying 71.1 per cent of the net FOB value for cocoa exports for the 2009/2010 season.
“This translates to GH¢2,208 per tonne, compared to the GH¢1,632 per tonne paid during the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration in the 2008/2009 season,” he said.
He added that the government had also directed that bonuses totalling GH¢50 million for the 2008/2009 main crop season should be paid in two instalments to farmers: 50 per cent in November 2009 and the remaining 50 per cent in April and May 2010.
The Finance Minister further stated that in October this year the government provided seed money of GH¢15 million for the establishment of the Cocoa Farmers Social Security Fund, adding that it would continue to support the implementation of the Special Cocoa Farmers Housing Scheme, the mass spraying of cocoa farms, improvement in road condition in cocoa growing areas and the replanting and rehabilitation of old cocoa farms in the Eastern, Ashanti and Western regions.
“These interventions, we hope, will provide enough incentives to farmers to step up production to meet the target of 1,000,000 tonnes in 2012,” he stated
Dr Duffuor also touched on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Ganges Jute West Africa Limited and COCOBOD for the establishment of a jute factory in Kumasi and said the government would provide all the needed support for the implementation of the project without delay.
He said the government would support CALF Cocoa, a cocoa processing facility which he described as the largest in the region, to take off to enable it to contribute to the economic growth of the country.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Health summit underway - To strategise for future (Health Page)

Stakeholders in the health sector are attending a five-day summit to map the way forward and renew their commitment towards improving the country’s health care delivery.
With the theme; “Going beyond strategy to action”, the health summit, which is a bi-annual event within the health sector, will provide the Ministry of Health (MoH), its agencies, development partners, civil society and other stakeholders the opportunity to dialogue, reflect on their performance and strategise for the future.
Opening the summit, the Minister of Health designate, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, said the Mental Health Services and the National Ambulance Services are to benefit from a financial package from the government to support their activities.
Out of the package, the Mental Health Services will receive GH¢1.3 million while the National Ambulance Service will be a beneficiary of GH¢ 3.3 million to scale up their operations.
To expand the Community Based Health Planning and Services Programme (CHPS), there is also an initial allocation of GH¢ 3.4 million under the HIPC Fund, the Government of Ghana and sector budgetary support.
Dr Benjamin Kunbuor expressed the hope that funds for the CHPS programme would go a long way in providing basic equipment to ensure more functional CHPS zones in deprived areas across the country.
He said since the government assumed office in January, this year, the summit had been the first major plan initiated within the health sector and was optimistic that the outcome of the summit would accelerate the implementation of the health programmes in the health sector.
Touching on some of the government’s promises, the minister mentioned the introduction of a one-time premium payment scheme under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), adding that the pledge was borne out of the need to ensure universal access to basic healthcare by all.
Dr Kunbuor, however, pointed out that the government intended to initiate a strategic and continued dialogue on the subject when all the required information was gathered to enable the health partners make inputs in the implementation.
Speaking on behalf of the development partners, the Danish Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Stig Barlyng, said “Ghana is a champion in health, just as in soccer”.
He explained that the government spent more on health than other developing countries did, adding that the country was committed to reaching the Abuja target of 15 per cent GDP spent on health.
Mr Barlyng, however, pointed out that the results achieved in the health sector did not fully match the investment made and that some areas were still underserved, resulting in many maternal deaths and too many children dying or suffering from malnutrition.
In his welcoming address, the acting Chief Director of the MoH, Mr Samuel Boateng, said the theme for the event summed up the vision and disposition of the current leadership of the health sector whose focus was achieving results within the resource constraints.
The chairman for the function, Alhaji Dr Mustapha Ahmed, who is also the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, expressed the hope that the participants would come out with recommendations to help promote health care delivery in the years ahead.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TEWU to seek redress at Labour Commission

EXECUTIVES of the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) say they are preparing to lodge a complaint with the National Labour Commission (NLC) after their employers reneged on an agreement to pay their salary increments.
The General Secretary of TEWU, Mr Daniel Anim-Antwi, told the Daily Graphic that a 17 per cent salary increase for this year that should have been paid to members in two tranches from August did not materialise.
He said the government and the executives of TEWU had agreed that the arrears from January to July would be paid in two instalments, with the first being paid in September and the second in October, but no payment was made by the government in either month.
Local executives of TEWU, therefore, met a week ago and agreed to a resolution demanding full payment of the arrears in November and forwarded their concerns to their management, that is, the vice-chancellors of the universities.
Mr Anim-Antwi said no response had been had from the vice-chancellors, for which reason a meeting was held yesterday with their members to brief them on the development.
He stressed that the executives of TEWU had not declared any strike and that they expected their members to go back to work after the meeting.
To those who had not gone back to work, Mr Anim-Antwi said he had already appealed to them to continue working as normal, as the executives resorted to the options available to them to address their grievances.
In an interview, a source at the University of Ghana, Legon, said although there had not been an official declaration of a strike on the Legon campus, many of the workers had taken advantage of the situation to stay away from work.
The source, who would want to remain anonymous, said many of them reported for duty yesterday but refused to work as expected.
It said members of the union were expected to meet their executives today for a final decision on the matter.
Meanwhile, reports from the Kwame University of Science and Technology (KNUST) indicate that many of the workers who belong to TEWU failed to perform their duties yesterday.
Our Ashanti Regional correspondent, Kwame Asare Boadu, reports that academic work at KNUST was disrupted by the indefinite strike embarked upon by members of TEWU over unpaid salary arrears.
Critical areas, including faculty libraries, were locked as the members of TEWU stayed out of work.
That followed the expiry of a one-week ultimatum they gave to the government to pay their seven-month salary arrears.
On the KNUST campus, some of the workers wore red armbands and roamed about, chanting war songs.
A source at the College of Art and Social Sciences told the Daily Graphic, “They are not working. We don’t know what is going to happen in the coming days.”
According to some of the striking workers who spoke to this paper, the government had taken them for a ride for far too long and it was about time they reacted.
They insisted that they would return to work only when the arrears had been paid in full.
According to them, the government wanted to play tricks on them and that was why it had released just three months of the arrears owed them, adding that until everything was released, they would not get to work.

Cervical cancer vaccine available (Women and Gender Page)

FEMALES between the ages of 10 and 50 years could protect themselves against cervical cancer by being vaccinated.
In Ghana, health facilities where the vaccination could be provided are the Ridge Hospital, Trust Hospital at Osu, Akai House Clinic, Valumed at Accra Mall, Lister Hospital on the Spintex Road, the Surgical Medical Emergency (SME) Pharmacy of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Franklyn Medical and Medifem Hospital at Dzorwulu.
At the opening of a two-day annual general meeting (AGM) of the Lady Pharmacists Association of Ghana (LAPAG), in Accra on Thursday, a representative of the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Ms Theresa Galley, said since the vaccine (Cervarix) was introduced in Ghana in March this year, only about 1,000 women had availed themselves for the protective intervention.
She advised more women to take advantage of the vaccine to protect themselves from the disease, which she said was claiming the lives of many women globally.
The theme for the event was: LAPAG Cares; Cervical Cancer Prevention, a Smart Choice”.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every two minutes, a woman dies of cervical cancer worldwide. The disease is the second most common cancer affecting women globally and accounting for about 80 per cent of all cancers. Every woman is said to be at risk of the disease, irrespective of her age.
Cervical cancer develops in the cervix, which is the low, narrow neck of the uterus that opens into the vagina. The cervix is of vital importance because it protects the uterus, which leads into the vagina, from infections.
Health professionals describe cervical cancer as malignant neoplasm of the cervix uteri or cervical area. It may present with vaginal bleeding but symptoms may be absent until the cancer is in its advanced stages.
Treatment of the disease consists of surgery in the early stages and chemotherapy and radiotherapy in its advanced stages.
Pap smear screening can identify potentially pre-cancerous changes. Treatment of high grade changes can prevent the development of cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a necessary factor in the development of nearly all cases of cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine which has been introduced in Ghana since March this year, is effective against the two strains of HPV that usually cause cervical cancer. The vaccine has been licensed in the U.S. and by the European Union (EU). The two HPV strains together are currently responsible for approximately 70 per cent of all cervical cancers.
The LAPAG President, Mrs Sybil Ossei-Agyeman-Yeboah, advised Ghanaian women to avail themselves of regular screening to ensure the early detection and treatment of the disease, stressing that in developed countries, the widespread use of cervical screening programmes had reduced the incidence of invasive cervical cancer by 50 per cent or more.
In her address, a Physician at Franklin Medical Service, Dr Mrs Lynda Decker, gave some of the factors that caused cervical cancer as early sex, number of sexual partners in life, cigarette smoking, suffering persistent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and a high number of pregnancies, among others.
In a speech read on her behalf, the Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs, Ms Akua Dansua, advised mothers to encourage their young daughters to go for vaccination before they became sexually active.
She gave the assurance that the government would support women to go for vaccination against the disease by paying for it in the near future.
Further checks done on the vaccine on the Internet at indicated that the final analysis of the Patricia study shows that the HPV-AS04-adjuvanted vaccine (Cervarix) developed by GlaxoSmithKline for HPV types 16 and 18 had high efficacy against the pre-cancerous cervical lesions that could eventually lead to cervical cancer.
Cervarix is designed to prevent infection from HPV types 16 and 18, which currently cause about 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.
Health professionals say HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, which causes cervical cancer in a small percentage of those infected. Cervarix is a preventive HPV vaccine, not therapeutic. HPV immunity is type-specific, so a successful series of Cervarix shots will not block infection from cervical cancer-causing HPV types other than HPV types 16 and 18; experts, therefore, continue to recommend routine cervical pap smears even for women who have been vaccinated.

CCFC reaches out to communities in Northern Region

Sat, November 14, 2009

An international non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Christian Children Fund of Canada (CCFC), which is currently operating in the Northern Region, has over the past 50 years supported the fight against poverty in underdeveloped communities throughout the world.
With a vision to reach out to children, families and communities in need, and inspired by Christ’s example of love and care for mankind, CCFC, the Canadian-based charity international development organisation, supports children, families and communities, especially in the developing world.
In a message contained in its annual report for 2009, the CCFC Country Director in Ghana, Mrs Sanata Nantogma, said “our aim is to bring smiles to the faces of people, especially children.”
Mrs Nantogma said to make effective use of the funds from their sponsors and also to increase their impact in the communities where they operated, the organisation had taken pains to develop a strategic approach structured around five priority areas which were fundamental and most likely to provide a higher standard of living for people, especially the vulnerable.
The five strategic areas include: Strengthening institutional and community organisations; sustainable livelihood development; education; water, sanitation and hygiene as well as health and nutrition.
In Ghana, CCFC works with five partners namely Markaz Al Bishara, Tuma Kavi Development Association, Presbyterian Farmers Training Programme, the Ghana Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God Relief and Development Services in nine districts in the Northern Region. The districts are the Tamale metropolis, Yendi, Saboba, Savelugu/Nanton, Tolon-Kumbungu, East Gonja, Gushiegu and Nanumba North and South.
As part of its objectives, the organisation pushes for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by working through local partners which increases the sustainability of its activities.
To be more efficient, partners who work with the organisation at the local level are supposed to have knowledge of the local situations and needs of the communities in which they work.
In addition they are also expected to have the ability to implement child-focused community development programmes that respond to the local context and environment.
As part of its achievement, CCFC has in the area of education provided school materials for 6,962 pupils, supported 66 students with the payment of school fees, provided 653 children with school uniforms and also arranged for extra classes for 132 pupils in those communities.
In addition, the CCFC has built four early childhood development centres in four communities and also provided furniture for four others as well organised educational tours for a total of 164 children in its area of operation.
To ensure that adults were not left out, the organisation organised eight cycles of functional literacy programmes for some adults in the communities.
In the 2009 annual report Mrs Nantogma said “We have the objective of transforming impoverished neighbourhoods into fully functioning sustainable ones”.

Monday, November 16, 2009

GMA encourages members to accept posting to deprived areas

THE Ghana Medical Association (GMA) says it will encourage its members to accept postings to deprived areas of the country.
The association, however, called on the Government and the Fair Wages and Salary Commission to finalise the draft condition of service document and to implement it with special emphasis on the interest of doctors serving in deprived areas.
This came out during the association’s 51st Annual General Conference in Tamale in the Northern Region, which was held from November 3 to November 8, 2009 on the theme: “Towards a Better Health Care for Ghana: The Human Resource Challenges and Solutions”.
In a communiqué, which was jointly signed by the President of the GMA, Dr Emmanuel Adom Winful, and the General Secretary, Dr Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey, the association also urged district and municipal assemblies to take urgent steps to address the frustrating accommodation challenges by providing adequate and decent residential facilities for health workers posted to deprived areas.
It said deliberations at the conference brought out huge disparities and skewed distribution of the human resource in the health sector to the disadvantage of the three northern regions and other deprived areas in the country which needed to be tackled.
The association also called on the Ministry of Health (MoH), and for that matter, the Government, to put in place a comprehensive package to attract to and retain health workers in deprived areas.
It observed that the lack of health workers remained one challenge currently facing health facilities with regard to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and which had the potential of crippling health care delivery in the country.
To sustain the NHIS, the GMA advised the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to regularly review tariffs while ensuring timely reimbursement of claims submitted by service providers to avoid compromising quality care to clients.
The GMA also touched on the seriously under-resourced health training institutions, the delay in the reconstitution of the dissolved Council of the Ghana Post-graduate College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as the board of the Medical and Dental Council (MDC), a situation the GMA said affected the operations of the two institutions.
It also called on the Government to resource the health training institutions and to continue to support all post-graduate training programmes within the health sector.
In addition, the GMA called on the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons to streamline its programmes to avoid making the deprived areas more deprived by over-concentrating its training programmes in the teaching hospitals.
“Training should also place emphasis on practical district and community rotation that will result in learning while delivering service, ” it stated.

Kunbuor calls for change in lifestyle (Mirror News)

Saturday, November 6, 2009
THE Minister of Health designate, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, has observed that the overwhelming challenge to the health of this country has to be confronted through proper sanitation, nutrition and a change in lifestyle.
He noted that the unhygienic conditions under which some people lived and the breakdown of community systems of protection and prevention of diseases constituted one of the biggest challenges confronting the health sector.
“For instance, we are called to manage malaria and sometimes watch children die out of preventable diseases when our communities continue to create the environment that precipitate these diseases in the first place”, he stressed.
Dr Kunbuor made these observations in a speech read on his behalf at the opening of the 12th biennial national delegates conference and the launch of the golden jubilee celebration of the Ghana Registered Nurses Association (GRNA) in Accra.
The theme for the three-day conference was “Nurses: Meeting Communities Expectations With Passion Through Innovations”.
Dr Kunbour said he expected Ghanaian nurses to take the opportunity to explore and examine ways of not only improving access to services in health facilities but to also champion the cause of establishing measures for upholding the principles of community accountability for health in the society.
He said the health sector was moving from a disease -centred- approach to health care delivery to a system that would protect the health of the individual through a better understanding of the role individuals and communities played in health development, adding that “while the communities expect much from us, we must also try and communicate our expectations to them at the least opportunity we get”.
Delivering the keynote address, a lecturer at the Central University College, Mrs Jane Aba Mansa Okrah, said health care reforms going on all over the world and particularly in West Africa, had supported the urgent call for more relevant and quality health services.
Mrs Okrah, who is a professional nurse, noted that the call had been given a greater impetus with the new world economic order, growing and ageing global and national populations, limited resources to meet the needs of these populations and an increasing demand from users of health services.
The President of the association, Mrs Alice Darkowaa Asare-Allottey, stated that as nursing continued to be more challenging in a dynamic world, there was the expectation that nursing and midwifery innovations would be a fundamental source of progress to health care systems globally.
She pointed out that through innovations, community health nurses had moved from fixed location clinics to village residences built by the community, provided door-to-door services delivery in the community as well as ambulatory care and visits to all houses of health education.
The chairperson for the function who is also a former president of the GRNA, Mrs Emma Helen Banga, entreated nurses to continue to provide quality services to the sick and the needy just like was done those who practised nursing in times past.

Journalists attend writing clinic on AIDS (Mirror News)

Sat.November 13, 2009

The Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), Dr Angela El-Adas, has said although some progress has been made in the nation’s response to HIV and AIDS, reaching the universal access target still remains a major challenge.
She said one area which needed serious attention was the tangible gap which still remained in respect of the basic rights of people infected with the virus.
She was addressing 30 participants at the opening of a writing clinic held at Atimpoku in the Eastern Region last Saturday.
It was organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), with sponsorship from the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), as part of a project dubbed, “Using the Media to Create Awareness of HIV and AIDS”.
Dr El-Adas said since 1986 Ghana had undertaken a wide range of interventions aimed at preventing the spread and mitigating the impact of the disease on people.
She noted that through its implementing partners and with unfailing assistance from donor partners, the GAC had been working with most-at-risk populations (MARPS) and other vulnerable groups, providing counselling, treatment, care and support for People Living with HIV (PLHIVs) and supporting orphans.
Other interventions, according to her, were promoting abstinence among the youth, promoting safe sex among adults and intensifying the administration of anti-retroviral (ART) therapy for adults and children.
She said in all those areas, significant achievements had been made but pointed out that one area which still remained a challenge was stigmatisation and discrimination against PLHIVs.
She urged the media to lend a hand to the national response to ensure that people were educated on issues of HIV and AIDS.
For his part, the Director of Technical Services of the GAC, Dr Richard Amenyah, stated that Ghana was lagging behind in its quest to achieve universal access to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support for infected people.
He explained that universal access was defined as being as close as possible to providing sustainable and quality HIV services for all in need by 2010.
He said that would require increased resources, working towards the elimination of stigmatisation, enhanced access to affordable medicines, a reduction in vulnerability of persons affected by HIV and AIDS, particularly orphans, children infected with the virus and the aged.
Dr Amenyah indicated that HIV was still a serious problem in Ghana, in spite of the fact that the annual rate of infection had reduced from 3.6 per cent in 2003 to 1.7 per cent in 2008, adding that HIV prevalence among MARPS was still high and explained MARPS to include female sexual service providers and also men who slept with other men.
He said currently there were an estimated 240,802 HIV positive cases in Ghana, as against 236,151 in 2008, adding that 15,841 people died of AIDS related diseases in 2008.
He urged media practitioners to set the agenda to encourage others to have interest in HIV and AIDS issues so that the country would move ahead to achieve the target of universal access which was less than 15 months away.
The Chairperson for the programme, Dr Doris Dartey, advised media practitioners to have interest in issues of health and not spend all their time writing and talking about politics.

World Oldest Woman at Yeji? (Mirror Front Page)

Sat. November 14, 2009

Madam Adjoa Adisima of Yeji in the Brong Ahafo Region could oust 115-year-old Gertrude Baines from her position as the world’s oldest living person.
Madam Adisima, a member of the Yeji Wesley Methodist Church, turned 139 last February.
Reacting to a story in the Saturday, October 10, 2009 issue of the Daily Graphic which talked about Ms Baines’s birthday celebration, the head of the church, the Very Rev Ebenezer Eshun, claimed that his church member’s name rather deserved mention in the Guinness Book of World Records and not Ms Baines’s.
With a family record book to back his claims, Rev Eshun said the book, which was made available by one of the five surviving children of the old woman, indicated that Madam Adisima was born at Yeji on February 26, 1870.
Speaking to The Mirror in Accra last Wednesday, Rev Eshun, who travelled to Accra to present the story on behalf of the family, said Madam Adisima had 12 children and about 100 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Talking about the physical condition of the old woman, he said although she was in a wheelchair and had difficulty seeing and hearing, she could remember things which happened many years ago and could clearly speak about them.
Rev Eshun said the condition of her surviving children, who looked very old, as well as evidence from other equally old people in the town was enough to make any one believe the woman’s story.
In addition, he said, the woman was capable of narrating stories which could only be read from history books.
He said the evidence he gathered from the old woman and other sources in the town indicated that her father, the late Nana Kojo Amoah of Ekumfi Ango in the Central Region, had travelled to settle at Yeji in 1860.
The late Nana Amoah got married to one Maame Abena, a native of Yeji, and had two children, Segu Amoah and Adjoa Adisima. While Segu Amoah was sent back to the Central Region for his education, Adisima stayed at Yeji with her parents and helped with their farming and trading activities.
He said the late Segu, after schooling in the Central Region, went back to Yeji and in 1930 introduced Methodism there and established a school in the community.
The priest indicated that Madam Adisima is still a member of the church, together with other members of her family, which has many of the educated people in Yeji.
Rev Eshun said Madam Adisima is a source of reliable historical information to the people of Yeji and others who call on her.

Caption: The 139-year-old Madam Adjoa Adisima in a wheelchair. With her on the left is the Rt Rev Ben Abubakr, a former Bishop of the Kumasi Diocese of the Methodist Church. First from right is the Very Rev Ebenezer Eshun of the Yeji Methodist Church and (second from right) Mr Kwame Boafo, the Diocesan Lay Chairman of the Kumasi Methodist Church.

MURDER IN COLD BLOOD -PNC's candidate ambushed and shot (Front Page)

Sat, November 14, 2009
THE People’s National Convention (PNC) parliamentary candidate in the Mamprusi East Constituency in the 2008 elections, Mr Moses Alando Banaba, has been killed by an unknown gunman at Nalerigu in the Northern Region.
The deceased, who worked at the Nalerigu Baptist Medical Centre in the East Mamprusi District as a pharmacist, was allegedly ambushed and shot in the thigh when he was on his way home after work on Thursday evening.
The body of the deceased, who is a Kusasi, has been deposited at the morgue at the Nalerigu Baptist Medical Centre. No arrests have been made in connection with the incident.
However, the Northern Regional Police Command is on the heels of two suspects. While the name of one of the suspects is yet to be known, the police mentioned Salifu Zongo Naaba as the other suspect.
According to the Northern Regional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police Mr A. Awuni, Zongo Naaba, a Mamprusi, was spotted early yesterday at a lorry station at Nalerigu attempting to flee the town.
He said when the police attempted to arrest Naaba, a crowd went to his defence, thereby preventing the policemen from effecting the suspect’s arrest.
The suspect is believed to be working with Alhaji Yussif, alias Patience, a lotto agent in Bawku in the Upper East Region.
The commander, therefore, appealed to the Paramount Chief of the area, the Nayiri, Na Bohugu Mahami Abdulai Sheriga, to prevail upon the people to produce the suspect to assist in investigations.
“Even though the motive for the shooting is yet to be ascertained, this incident is an indication that the feuding factions in Bawku now want to export the conflict to the Northern Region,” ACP Awuni indicated.
“We will not sit unconcerned and allow some few disgruntled persons to take the law into their own hands. We will deal drastically with such people when apprehended,” he warned.
He emphasised the readiness of the police to go after the sponsors of the internecine conflicts in the north and urged the people to report any suspicious characters in their respective communities to the police.
When contacted in Accra, the Leader of the PNC, Dr Edward Mahama, said he received a phone call about Mr Banaba’s murder from members of the deceased’s family around 10 p.m. on Thursday, November 12, 2009.
He expressed his deepest condolence to Mr Banaba’s family and friends and advised them to stay calm as the security agencies conducted investigations into the matter.
He also expressed confidence in the security agencies and appealed to them to do everything within their power to apprehend the culprits to ensure that justice prevailed.
Dr Mahama said the late Mr Banaba had been with the PNC since early 1992.
The late Mr Banaba, believed to be in his late 40s, was married with six children. His wife, who is said to be pursuing a course in Accra, left for home immediately the news got to her.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Health service put in measures to contain H1N1 (Page 13)

THE Ghana Health Service (GHS) has put in place measures to contain the massive spread of the pandemic influenza H1N1 in the country.
This is because cases of the virus, which was first reported in the country in August this year, have risen to 18 by November 3, 2009.
The service has, therefore, advised all health facilities, both public and private, to be ready to receive and manage cases that will be reported to them.
The facilities have also been advised to put in place the necessary logistics and human resource for the management of cases.
In a statement providing an update on the current situation of the influenza in Ghana as of Tuesday, November 3, the GHS announced that the total number of recorded cases of the disease had increased to 18.
It stated that the 18 positive cases were out of a total of 249 specimen investigated at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) as of November 3, 2009.
It pointed out that all the 15 earlier cases which tested positive to the virus had been well managed and the patients discharged, while the last three were under treatment.
So far, no deaths has been recorded in Ghana since the first case of the disease was recorded in August.
To help prevent massive spread of the disease in the country, the GHS had recommended that staff at both the regional and district levels should be given proper orientation as to how to handle the situation.
It also announced that consequently, holding rooms and isolation rooms had been identified at the regional and district levels ready to receive all suspected cases for management.
“Anti-viral drugs for H1N1 and materials for collecting specimen from suspected patients have been distributed to all the regions,” it pointed out.
The health service also indicated that the communication strategy had been activated and posters on the influenza distributed to all the regions for use.
In addition, it said all health directorates had been directed to work with all media houses at the local levels to secure free airtime and space to enhance public education on the disease.
It further urged the public to support the management of the situation by observing personal hygiene, especially hand washing with soap after visiting the toilet and before handling food.
Pandemic Influenza H1N1 2009 is a disease that is caused by a virus that affects the respiratory system.
According to the Ministry of Health, a person is suspected to have the disease when he or she develops fever, cough and or sore throat. Such an individual is advised to immediately report to a health facility.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Stigmatisation affects us more" (Nov. 11,2009)

PEOPLE Living with HIV (PLHIVs) say stigmatisation from especially close relations affect their general well-being and efforts at improving on their health.
Stories told by some of them at a meeting with health reporters in Koforidua on Saturday described the trauma some of them went through as their spouses, parents, siblings and sometimes their children refused to have any contact with them as soon as they got to know of their HIV status.
The experiences were narrated during a three-day writing clinic organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) under the association’s project “Using the Media to Create Awareness on HIV and AIDS”, which is being sponsored by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC).
As part of the event, which had participants from the southern sector of Ghana, a meeting was held between two groups of PLHIVs and the participants to enable the PLHIVs tell their own stories. The two groups were the Matthew Chapter 25 and Peace and Hope.
Majority of the members of the groups were mainly young women, who said they had either lost their spouses to the virus or their spouses had abandoned them.
They told the participants how almost all of them had lost their livelihood as a result of the stigma attached to their situation, adding that as they tried to help themselves as a group, people in the community refused to purchase items such as palm oil, gari and even tie and dye and batik which they produced.
The PLHIVs, who were mainly women in the reproductive age bracket, had been supported by others to form those associations to receive support to enable them to buy anti-retroviral (ART) drugs and also engage in income-earning activities.
They received counselling as to how to manage their situation and also to care for themselves as they received treatment.
To some of them, stigmatisation and discrimination from society worsened their situation and made it difficult for them to effectively respond to treatment since they went through a lot of stress.
Earlier at the opening of the writing clinic at Atimpoku, the acting Director General of the GAC, Dr Angela El-Adas, urged journalists to be passionate about issues of HIV and AIDS since they affected every individual either directly or indirectly.
She explained that the media stood could use their tools to help Ghana achieve target of ensuring universal access to prevention of HIV infection, treatment, care and support for PLHIVs by 2010.
Dr El-Adas appealed to journalists to identify specific areas of HIV and AIDS, and acquire the needed information to enable them to present the issues as they were.
She took the opportunity to advise the public not to have the notion that HIV was no more a problem, since the virus was infecting and killing people on daily basis.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Graphic and Al-Ahram to exchange stories (Spread)

Ghana’S leading newspaper, the Daily Graphic, and its counterpart in Egypt, Al-Ahram Hebdo, are exploring the possibility of exchanging stories for the benefit of their peoples.
The management of the two newspapers are yet to work out the modalities for the exchange to enable their respective readership to learn directly about each other’s country and practices without relying on a third source.
This came out during a call on the Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Mr Mohammed Ibrahim Awal, by the Editor-in-Chief of the Al-Ahram newspaper, Dr Mohammed Salmawy, who is also the President of the Egyptian Writers Union. Accompanying Dr Salmawy to the offices of the GCGL was Professor Atukwei Okai, the Secretary-General of the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA).
Dr Salmawy was in Ghana to participate in the 20th anniversary of PAWA, as well as the centenary celebration of the birth of Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. He was honoured with a long-term achievement as a writer.
Making the proposal, Dr Salmawy said the time had come for countries in Africa to tell their own stories to each other instead of relying on third parties who might not see anything good about the continent and its people.
He said Ghana, like Egypt, on many occasions, had had the opportunity to host many important events and observed that it was important some of the issues that came out of such events were shared with each other.
On Pan-Africanism, Dr Salmawy said it would be wrong for anybody to think that the concept was no more relevant, adding that the issues which gave relevance for the concept in the 1960s when African countries were fighting for independence continued to exist and so Pan-Africanism was important.
Dr Salmawy commended the Daily Graphic for its high standard, adding that this visit to Ghana, which is his first, had been fruitful as he had had the opportunity to observe some of the things he had only previously read about.
Mr Awal assured Dr Salmaw that the idea of exchanging stories between the two top newspapers, one in North Africa and the other in West Africa, was laudable and gave the assurance that the issue would be discussed at the next management meeting of Graphic.
He also proposed to Dr Salmawy to look at the possibility of an exchange programme involving journalists of the two establishments.
In his remarks, Professor Atukwei Okai said there was the need for Africans to know more about each other instead of always allowing others from outside the continent “to tell our story”.
He took the opportunity to express his appreciation to the management of the Daily Graphic for supporting the work of PAWA over the years.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Osteoporosis: The silent thief (Feature)

I WAS once reading through some materials on health, especially those which usually affect women, when I came across a question which made me to sit up. The question is: “If you fall suddenly, would your bones survive the impact?” The questioner went ahead to state; “They might not if you have osteoporosis”. Immediately, I became interested and made up my mind to learn more about this deadly disease which health experts say one in every three women above 50 years are likely to suffer.
Materials provided by the Lady Pharmacists Association of Ghana (LAPAG), during this year's celebration of the World Osteoporosis Day, which fell on October 20, indicated that osteoporosis, which literally means “porous bone”, is a disease in which the density and quality of bones are reduced and as the bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fractures is greatly increased. It added that the loss of bone occurs “silently” and progressively and often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
Every woman should be worried because the disease seems to be more prevalent among women than men.
According statistics provided in the LAPAG document, one in every three women as against one in every five men over the age of 50 years were likely to suffer an osteoporotic fracture. The reason given in case of women is that hormonal changes that take place at menopause are considered one of the reasons why women are at greater risk than men.
Fractures caused by osteoporosis in women aged over 45 years are responsible for more days spent in hospital than most other diseases such as breast cancer or heart attack.
It pointed out that the lifetime risk for a woman or man dying from hip fracture complications was the same as that for breast or prostate cancer.
Osteoporosis is sometimes referred to as “the silent thief”, because one may not know it is robbing one’s bone mass until one suffers a fracture because of weakened bones.
The disease can also become evident if one notices that he or she has lost height or that a spine is beginning to curve. It is also possible for a patient to break a wrist or hip from a gentle fall, or suffer a spinal fracture from something as simple as lifting a baby. Fractures associated with osteoporosis occur most commonly at the wrist, hip and spine.
According to the LAPAG materials, osteoporosis which causes spinal fractures could cause intense pain, chronic back pain and may eventually result in a gradual loss of movement and the inability of a sufferer to carry out daily chores.
The effects of the disease could also lead to loss of height, and in severe cases, the spine may curve to form what is termed a “dowager’s hump”.
Hip fractures almost always require surgery and in about a third of patients, result in loss of independent living and the need to transfer to institutional care.
However, the good news is that testing for osteoporosis is quick, easy and painless, and there are a number of different treatments available that can reduce the risk of vertebral fractures by up to 62 per cent and non-vertebral fractures by up to 69 per cent.
To know how osteoporosis occurs, it is important to note that bones are made of living and dynamic tissue. Throughout one's life, old bone tissue is removed and a new one formed. The critical years for building bone mass are during childhood and adolescence. During this age bracket, new bone is formed more quickly than old bone is removed, causing bones to become larger and denser. This pace continues until around the mid 20s when peak bone mass is normally reached.
Information available indicates that although a person’s peak bone mass is determined largely by genetic factors, other factors such as nutrition, physical activity and disease also influence bone development.
Bone tissue loss generally begins after the age of about 40 years, when a person is no longer able to replace bone tissue as quickly as he or she loses it.
In women, however, the rate of bone tissue loss increases after menopause, when oestrogen production stops and bones no longer benefit from its protective effect.
Men also suffer from loss of bone tissue, but the rate of loss is much slower than in women.
Health professionals advise that at this stage in life, taking preventive measures will help to slow the rate of bone tissue thinning and reduce the risk of having osteoporosis-related fractures. It is, therefore, very important for women after the age of 45 years to speak to their doctors and be assessed for the risk of post-menopausal osteoporosis.
On how to prevent the disease, it is important to know that the best time in life to ensure bone health for the future is while one is still young. Exercise and good nutrition, with plenty of calcium-rich foods accompanied by enough regular sunshine to maintain vitamin D production in our bodies will ensure strong bones.
This does not mean, however, that we cannot contribute positively to our bone health later on in life. The same things that make bones strong in youth will also help later on. For patients diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are also various treatments available that slow down the rate of bone loss.
As stated earlier, one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 years are likely to suffer an osteoporotic fracture. The hormonal changes that take place at menopause are one reason why women are at greater risk than men.
There are a number of other risk factors associated with osteoporosis and these include a close family member diagnosed with osteoporosis ; a family history of fractures resulting from minor bumps and falls; frequent falls; a previous fracture and long-term enforced bed rest.
Others are little physical activity; low body weight; loss in height; menstruation stopping for more than 12 months; a diet low in calcium and vitamin D; high alcohol intake; smoking; certain medications in long-term use such as corticosteroids and also when one is 60 years old and above.
As osteoporosis has no obvious symptoms other than a fracture when the bone is already significantly weakened, it is important to see a doctor if any of the risk factors apply to you.
The doctor will take a thorough medical history that includes information on any recent fractures and may determine that the next step is to assess your risk of osteoporosis and its related risk of fractures.

Take interest in issues of environment (Friday, November 6, 2009)

THE Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ms Sherry Ayittey, has called on the international community to focus more attention on issues of the environment and deal resolutely with challenges such as gas emissions which threaten human existence.
Addressing participants at an international workshop organised in Accra yesterday, the minister said the global problem of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions and the resultant consequences of floods and droughts which faced the world in recent times called for immediate action to check them.
Participants from Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia and Zambia are discussing the theme, "Removing Barriers to Invasive Plant Management in Africa", at the four-day workshop organised under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Ms Ayittey said the current potential impact on invasive aquatic species and the barriers militating against their management in Africa had been the motivation behind the development of the UNEP and the GEF.
She said, for example, that the menace of water hyacinth to water resources and fisheries had resulted in over a 100 per cent reduction in fish catch over the past few years and the abandonment of entire villages by both fishermen and farmers due to dwindling or lack of economic opportunities.
"This is particularly true of residents of villages and hamlets along the Tano Lagoon and the river complex on the south-western border with Cote d’Ivoire. Water hyacinth has also blocked the navigation paths of boats plying the Oti arm of the Volta Lake," she explained.
She expressed her gratitude to the UNEP and the GEF for the workshop, sating, “It is about food security and poverty reduction, about economic development and the health of especially impoverished citizens of our countries. It also addresses the pertinent issues of global warming and its repercussion on bio-diversity, without which we cannot survive as humans."
In her welcoming address, the Deputy Director-General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, said the invasion of alien species and their associated problems had become a reality in most countries requiring urgent and pragmatic action to fight to save and protect the environment, ecosystems and indigenous bio-diversity before the situation got completely out of hand.
She said in Ghana, records indicated that water hyacinth and kariba weed had adversely affected fisheries and water supply in the Tano River and Lagoon Complex, as well as the Volta River System.
“Ghana has, over the years, been battling with the challenges posed by these invading alien species and we acknowledge the unflinching support the UNEP and the GEF have given us to address the problem,” she stated.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vice-President calls for intensified HIV education (Spread)

(November 3, 2009)
THE Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, yesterday launched a month-long programme for the celebration of this year's World AIDS Day, with a call on Ghanaians to rededicate themselves to the fight against HIV and AIDS.
He said the fact that the national HIV prevalence rate had reduced from 1.9 per cent in 2008 to 1.7 per cent in 2009 did not call for complacency but rather continuous efforts to control the spread of the pandemic.
This year's World AIDS Day falls on Tuesday, December 1 and the day will be marked on the theme, "Universal Access and Human Rights".
The objective for the celebration, as spelt out by the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), is to enhance and advocate leadership and accountability in addressing the HIV epidemic in Ghana at all levels by engaging all stakeholders in decision making at the national, regional, district, community, family and individual levels.
As part of the celebration, there are plans to embark on a series of activities to encourage people to buy into the "Know Your HIV Status Campaign" being undertaken nation-wide by the Ministry of Health (MoH), while emphasising human rights which impact on HIV and AIDS.
In his address, Mr Mahama said, “Our commitment as individuals must start from our resolve not to get infected with HIV.”
He said the full extent of the pandemic was still unfolding, adding that studies had shown its capacity to destroy the gains made in development and its ability to send many countries backwards.
"Let us use this opportunity to remind ourselves that HIV and AIDS pose a major challenge to national development, principally because it is capable of cutting short the lives of our most productive citizens," he stressed
Mr Mahama hinted that the government was considering the possibility of reducing the size of the membership of the GAC from the present 46 to what he termed a manageable size.
In her welcoming address, the acting Director General of the GAC, Dr Angela El-Adas, said in 2006 Ghana pledged to provide universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, adding that although some progress had been made, reaching the target remained a major challenge.
She, however, said since 1986 Ghanaians had demonstrated their commitment and undertaken a wide range of interventions to prevent the spread of the disease, including counselling, treatment, care and support for people living with HIV, supporting orphans and vulnerable children, promoting abstinence among the youth, promoting safe sex among adults and intensifying the administration of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) for adults and children.
She said although significant achievements had been made in those areas, a tangible gap still remained with respect to the basic rights of those sub-populations which must be bridged.
For his part, the Programme Manager of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), Dr Nii Akwei Addo, said although the national HIV prevalence was low, prevalence among same sex partners, commercial sex workers, prison inmates and prison officers was still high.
He explained that the national HIV prevalence of 1.7 per cent meant that out of every 100 people in Ghana, a little over two persons were HIV positive.
A human rights advocate, Nana Oye Lithur, said human rights, as expressed in national constitutions and international and regional conventions, were tools needed by the government and individuals to advance social justice among persons living with HIV/AIDS.
She said persons living with HIV/AIDS had the right to life, health, information, education and decision making which were guaranteed under Chapter Five of the Constitution.
Speaking on behalf of the United Nations agencies in Ghana, the UN Resident Co-ordinator, Mr Daouda Toure, said the UN agencies had incorporated human rights-based approach in all their plans and programmes.
He added that the world body was leading the process to assist all partner governments, ministries, departments and agencies to be trained in human rights-based approaches to ensure that human rights issues were addressed as cross- cutting issues at all levels.
The President of the Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS, Mr Clement Azigwe, said there were 30,000 people living with HIV but only about 4,200 had been registered with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which made it easier for them to access general heath services.
He said persons living with HIV faced challenges relating to human rights violations and, therefore, appealed to the GAC, the NACP, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, DANIDA, UNAIDS, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and USAID to assist them to address the problem.
The Chairman for the function, Naa Professor J.S. Nabila, who is also the President of the National House of Chiefs, as well as member of the Council of State, said the present situation where only less than 10 per cent of the population had gone for voluntary counselling and testing to know their HIV status was not good enough.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

‘Abortion is not a family planning method’ (Women's Page)

Sat.Oct 31, 2009

THE Founder and Programmes Manager of the Ghana Women Voices Foundation a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Nana Yaa Appiah, has advised women not to use abortion as a family planning method.
She said to avoid having unwanted pregnancies, women needed to adopt safe practices, such as abstinence, use of family planning methods and remaining faithful to their sexual partners.
Speaking at a workshop organised by the NGO in Accra on the theme, “Pharmacists, Reducing Unsafe Abortions”, Nana Yaa, who is also a pharmacist, said since pharmacists had not been trained to provide abortion care, they should refer women who approached them for such services to the appropriate health centres for counselling.
She said “on issues concerning abortion, pharmacists should not let their personal values on the matter cloud their professional responsibilities”.
Unsafe abortion is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a procedure for terminating unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking minimal medical standards or both.
A study conducted in 1998 by the immediate past Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, indicated that 30 per cent of all maternal deaths in Ghana were through unsafe abortion.
Nana Yaa reminded her colleagues that the legal framework of abortion in Ghana limited the pharmacist’s role to counselling appropriately and warned that those who were found to have administered medicines with the intent to clear an unwanted pregnancy would be held liable.
In a presentation, an obstetrician/gynaecologist at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Ali Samba, said nearly
68,000 women died every year from complications related to unsafe abortion, adding that 13 per cent of all maternal deaths were due to unsafe abortion.
Quoting from the WHO, Dr Samba said approximately 95 per cent of unsafe abortions occurred in developing countries, including Ghana.
He stated that Africa had the highest rate of abortion-related deaths of any region.
“Estimated 4.2 million unsafe abortions each year; 80 women die from unsafe abortion every day; 30,000 women die every year; unsafe abortion causes 12 per cent of all deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth,” stated the 2004 WHO report.
The Ghana Women Voices Foundation is an organisation set up two years ago to improve the lives of women and girls using a multi-pronged approach such as mentoring programmes, health awareness campaigns and the execution of projects relating to career guidance for girls and boys in second-cycle schools.

Skin worst affected by HIV (Sat. October 31, 2009)

THE skin has been identified as the most commonly affected organ in persons infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
That is because approximately 90 per cent of people living with the deadly virus develop skin changes and symptoms at some stage during the course of infection.
This came out at the opening of a two-day HIV and AIDS conference which took place in Accra on Wednesday. The conference is being organised by the Centre for Human Rights and Health Foundation (CHRiHF) on the theme: “HIV and AIDS and Skin Complications: Orthodox and Herbal Approach”.
The objective of the conference is to bring together policy makers, researchers, proprietors of pharmaceutical companies and cosmetic clinics, herbalists, people living with HIV and AIDS, as well as civil society groups, to discuss how best to manage HIV and AIDS-related skin infections.
The participants would also learn from people living with HIV and AIDS and the effects the disease have on their skin.
Topics for the conference are: The importance of skin in the area of HIV and AIDS; HIV and AIDS and skin manifestations; the role of orthodox and herbal medicine in fighting HIV and skin complications and practical steps to deal with HIV skin-related complications.
In his address, the former Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), Professor Sakyi Awuku Amoa, said Ghanaians should not be complacent because the rate of HIV infection had stabilised.
He said the current national prevalence of 1.7 per cent did not mean that the country could relax since there still existed the possibility of the country losing control of the situation as had happened in other countries such as Russia.
Professor Amoa said it was unfortunate to hear some people profess to have knowledge of issues of HIV and AIDS but tended to lack many of the salient points, which could help them to prevent its spread.
He explained that such situations usually brought about stigmatisation and noted that people lived comfortably with others they did not know suffered from HIV and AIDS but changed towards them as soon as they got to know of their status.
Professor Amoa commended herbalists who had come out with preparations to help in the management of some opportunistic infections of the pandemic but advised those who claimed to have cure to present their preparations for scientific tests.
The Executive Director of CHRiHF, Mr Atta Kwaku Boadi, said the organisation was committed to the promotion and protection of human health and expressed the hope that the conference would bring the activities of the organisation closer to people, especially in the area of ensuring equitable access to quality health care in the country.
He said the foundation, which was established a year ago, had been a campaigner for human rights issues and quality health care, especially for people living with HIV and AIDS, through research, education, advocacy and workshops, among other things.
Speaking on behalf of the UN agencies in Ghana, the Social Mobilisation Advisor of the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), Mr Jacob Agudze Larbi, said the respective agencies were committed to supporting Ghana in its fight against HIV and AIDS.
The chairperson for the occasion, who is also the Director for Policy and Planning of the GAC, Dr Sylvia Annie Akwettey, said it was important to recognise the diseases which affected people infected with HIV, since many sufferers had problems with the skin.