Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ghana to host tobacco control confab (Page 3)

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has chosen Ghana as the host of an international conference on tobacco control between April 20 and April 23, 2010.
Paricipants from 20 WHO-member countries are expected to attend the meeting dubbed the Second Working Group Meeting on Article 17 and 18 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of WHO. It is evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health and also aims at curbing tobacco related deaths and diseases.
To organise a successful meeting in Ghana, the Ministry of Health (MoH) on behalf of the Government of Ghana, yesterday inaugurated a nine-member Local Planning Committee.
The Chairman of the Committee is the Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Akwasi Osei. Other members are the Focal Person Tobacco Control Programme of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) Mrs Edith Wellington; the Director of Administration and Gender at the MoH, Mrs Marian A. Tackie and a representative of WHO Ghana office, Ms Sophia Twum-Barima.
The rest are a representative of the Attorney General’s Department, Mrs Pearl Akiwimi-Siriboe; a member of the Coalition of NGOs in Tobacco Control, Ms Martha Osei; a member of Consumer Concerns Initiative, Mr Ben Ahiagbe, as well as a representative each of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are yet to be named.
Inaugurating the Local Planning Committee, the outgoing Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Nii Oakley Kwei-Kuma said the first working group meeting was held in India in September, 2009.
He pointed out the main objective of the WHO Working Group Meeting was to interact with other global players to deliberate and strategize on the alternative livelihoods to tobacco growing in order to protect the environment and the health of persons in the production and manufacturing of tobacco products.
He said it was also to elaborate recommendations on effective measures that parties might take to promote sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing and update experiences from it first meeting by introducing recent experiences and cross national reviews and policy tools.
Dr Kweikuma added that the participants from 20 were also expected to undertake an assessment of sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing including tobacco industry practices, and any policies or measures that supported or facilitated tobacco growing.
For his part, Dr Osei said “Ghana, I must say is in the good books of WHO as evidenced by even their choice of Ghana for this meeting and we cannot afford to disappoint them”.
The Chief Psychiatrist said at least 45 people from about 20 countries will assembly here in Ghana to elaborate on the guidelines which will be used by WHO to guide various countries in their implementation of Article 17 and 18.
He pointed out the document will then be discussed and adopted by the General Assembly towards the end of the year as a guide for the world towards the control of tobacco production, marketing and consumption.
He gave the assurance that the committee members do their best for the meeting to be a memorable and a very productive one so that the working group could produce a document worthy of its sort.
Tobacco, according to the WHO is unhealthy, since it causes chronic disease which could lead to death.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ANXIETY ALL OVER-As Prez presents 2nd State of the Nation Address

Story: News Desk Report
PRESIDENT John Evans Atta Mills’s second State of the Nation Address to Parliament tomorrow is being heralded with great expectations, as Ghanaians from all walks of life remain anxious to see whether the issues he will touch on will address the bread and butter concerns of the ordinary man on the street.
The address is expected to touch on governance, the economy, energy, education, health, international relations, agriculture, among other issues that are critical to the survival of the ordinary Ghanaian.
However, one issue that ran through all the responses which the Daily Graphic gathered from a number of respondents was centred around oil and how the President hoped to use the expected revenue from that industry to solve the country’s problems.
In his maiden State of the Nation Address, President Mills explained to Ghanaians the challenges he inherited from the previous government and pledged to reverse what he described as the decline in the fortunes of Ghanaians.
He also proposed to adopt austere measures in the expenditure pattern and promote a vibrant and globally competitive private sector in order to fix the economy.
One year on, and from the perspective of many Ghanaians, the President does not appear to have that luxury of detailing the problems he inherited. He is expected to deal with how far he has gone in fixing them.
On that expectation, a political scientist, Mr Kwesi Jonah, told the Daily Graphic that he expected the President to tell the nation the current state of the Ghanaian economy, writes Mark-Anthony Vinorkor.
He said a year ago when the President took office, he told Ghanaians that the economy was in a bad shape and that he had assembled a team to deal with the problem.
“He should now let us know whether the economy has improved or not,” he said.
Mr Jonah, who is the Head of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, said with the drilling of oil in commercial quantities in the last quarter of the year, the President needed to tell the nation what improvement the oil would bring into the lives of the ordinary people.
“What is he doing to ensure that the benefits of oil trickle down to the ordinary people?” he asked.
For his part, a security analyst, Mr Emmanuel Sowatey, said the President needed to address the issue of the recent fire outbreaks in the country and tell the nation whether they were mere coincidences or cases of arson.
He said the discovery of oil had serious implications for national security and added that the President needed to assure the nation that the contracts signed would not be shrouded in secrecy.
He said the lack of transparency and accountability in that area could lead to serious conflicts, adding that 2010 being the year oil would be drilled in commercial quantities, Ghanaians had to know the happenings in the industry and how the national interest was being protected.
Mr Sowatey said the upcoming elections in Togo and Cote d’Ivoire, two of Ghana’s neighbours, had implications for the country’s security and added that President Mills would have to tell Ghanaians the steps that had been taken to support the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure peaceful elections in those countries.
The Minority Spokesman on Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, told the Daily Graphic that he expected the President to be candid with Ghanaians about the state of the nation, especially with its fiscal management, noting that the government had been boasting about reducing inflation while, in actual fact, it had refused to honour its statutory payments, writes Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah,
Dr Osei, who is also the Member of Parliament for Old Tafo, said, for example, that the government was yet to release the third quarter payments of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF), while payments had not been released to the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), among others.
He noted that in a situation where the government was not spending, inflation would definitely go down, but that could not be sustainable.
For her part, the NPP MP for Ayawaso West Wuogon, Mrs Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, said Ghanaians expected the President to elaborate on how his government was going to provide jobs for the teeming youth as he promised during the 2008 general election.
The current state of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) should also be an issue that should engage the attention of the President, she noted.
The MP said the way forward for the Single Spine Salary Structure should also be explained to Ghanaian workers, adding that low income earners were suffering as a result of high taxes, such as increased road tolls, among others.
The NPP MP for Kwadaso, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, also said having stabilised the macro economy, the government was expected to ensure growth and generate jobs for the youth.
For his part, the Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament and NDC MP for Ketu North, Mr James Klutse Avedzi, said he expected the President to give account of the extent to which policy initiatives announced in his first State of the Nation Address had been implemented.
He noted that efforts to grow the economy had yielded positive dividends and that should be reported to the people.
Mr Avedzi added that Ghana was making strides in the production of rice and that would ensure a reduction in the rice imported into the country and save it some of its scarce foreign exchange.
He said social interventions by the government in the educational sector, such as the provision of infrastructure for under-tree schools, the enhancement of the School Feeding Programme (SFP), the provision of textbooks and school uniforms for deprived pupils, were also expected to feature in the President’s address.
A 43-year-old nurse, Mercy Lamptey, said she expected the President to address the issue of national unity and the need for political tolerance, writes Lucy Adoma Yeboah.
According to her, the manner in which some individuals on both sides of the political divide talked, especially in the electronic media, made some members of the general public to feel uncomfortable.
To her, the leadership of the nation should ensure that the country was united to join forces in the national quest to create jobs, fight crime, reduce the incidence of diseases and develop as a nation.
Kwaku Osei, a trader in hardware at Kaneshie, said the government should reduce the taxes on the imported goods to help increase profit margins as a way of reducing poverty in the country.

NHIA acquires boats for field service

THE National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has acquired three boats for use by its subscribers in the Sene, Krachie West and Afram Plains districts.
The boats, which were inaugurated at the Marine Yard at Akosombo last Friday, were purchased purposely to convey subscribers who live beyond the Volta Lake to access health care under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Each of the boats is supposed to carry a maximum of eight persons at a time for a fee.
At the inauguration ceremony, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NHIA, Mr Sylvester Mensah, said taking into account the government’s agenda of a better Ghana, the NHIA was committed to providing its subscribers, particularly those in economically challenged circumstances, the opportunity to access health care without hindrance.
He observed that the country’s quest for accessible health care for its people had often been confronted by the problems that did not necessarily come from the health sector but others such as transportation.
He expressed the hope that the move would help address the problem of numerous accidents on the Volta Lake which had been attributed mainly to the overloading of poorly maintained boats.
He gave the assurance that the authority would, by the end of the year, provide about 10 more boats to ensure that many more communities were able to access health care.
The CEO pointed out that there was to be a three-member committee in each of the beneficiary districts to manage the revenue that would accrue from the operations of the boats and cautioned that there was the need for transparency to sustain the project.
For his part, the Volta River Authority (VRA) Town Manager at Akosombo, Mr M.K. Afriyie, expressed appreciation at the move by the NHIA and said the three additional boats could effectively complement the work of the VRA, which had already provided one boat nicknamed “Onipa Nua” to convey people to and from the other side of the lake.
He acknowledged the fact there were more communities still suffering from lack of transportation and appealed to other institutions to emulate the NHIA’s gesture.
The Eastern Regional Schemes Manager, Mr Emil Afram, expressed appreciation at the moves made by the NHIA but pointed out that next time bigger boats should be provided to convey many more people and also be in the position to withstand storms.
The Chairman for the function, Nana Nyarko Asare II, the Gyaasehene of Senchi, expressed the hope that the provision of the boats by the NHIA would help the people access health care.

Reducing maternal deaths in the country-Role of midwives

IT was around midnight when Afia Boatemaa (not her real name) began to feel labour pangs. When she informed her mother with whom she was living, what she was going through, Afia was told to hold on since it would take some time for the baby to actually come. On three separate occasions during the night, Afia had to struggle to get to her mother’s bed to wake her up, and at every time, her mother told her to wait.
Being her first pregnancy and with no experience in child delivery, Afia took her mother’s advice and continued to go through terrible pain throughout the night. The next morning, it was after Afia had been chanced upon by the wife of the local catchiest that she was rushed to the health post, but unfortunately, there was no midwife to attend to her. For hours, Afia was left unattended to and when she was finally sent to the nearest hospital some 30 kilometres away, she was immediately operated upon but unfortunately, she could not survive another case of maternal mortality.
Maternal mortality, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), represents the greatest health inequity in the world. Aside it, no other health indicator starkly illustrates global disparities in human development.
In addition, the United Nations (UN) body indicates that apart from the human tragedy associated with the death of any woman through preventable maternal causes, a family tend to lose a principal breadwinner and also a reduction in the survival of the existing children in the family.
Most maternal deaths, according to health workers, occur during labour, delivery or the first 24 hours after delivery. Skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth and the immediate postpartum period, by healthcare professionals such as midwives with appropriate skills has been recognised as one of the key interventions to reduce maternal mortality. But it must, however, be noted that these skilled birth attendants required the necessary emergency obstetric care facilities and equipment in order to prevent these deaths. Skilled birth attendants include midwives and other health professionals with midwifery skills.
Information provided by the Country Midwifery Advisor of UNFPA in Ghana, Mrs Fredrica Enyonam Hanson indicated a midwife is a person who, having been regularly admitted to a midwifery educational programme, duly recognised in the country in which it is located, has successfully completed the prescribed course of studies and has acquired the requisite qualification to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery.
To perform effectively, she pointed out that a midwife must be able to give the necessary supervision care and advice to women during pregnancy, labour, and the postpartum period. She is also to conduct deliveries on her own responsibility; and to care for the new-born and the infant.
This care, according to Mrs Hanson, included preventive measures, the detection of abnormal conditions in the mother and child, the procurement of medical assistance and the execution of emergency measures in the absence of medical help. A midwife is said to have an important task in health counselling and education, not only for the patient, but also within the family and the community. The work should involve antenatal education and preparation for parenthood and extends to certain areas of gynaecology, family planning (FP) and child care.
Midwives may practice in hospitals, clinics, health units, domiciliary conditions or any other service.
It is also important to point out that when women are unable to access the necessary services provided by midwives, they cannot benefit from these life-saving services. To save the lives, Ghana has over the years taken innovative steps to increase women's access to healthcare; however, maternal mortality in Ghana still remains high. Mrs Hanson observed that gaps in women's access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare were due in part to barriers and challenges midwives faced, and these challenges included overcrowding and high client midwife ratio, outdated facilities and equipment; few support networks; limited opportunities for continuing education; and traditional beliefs and practices-all of which affected maternal and neo-natal health outcomes.
She pointed out that midwives often found themselves practising within a context of rooted cultural practices and beliefs, rules governing social behaviour and clients' limited exposure to modern medicine.
“As a result, a supportive and informative environment needs to be developed so that midwives are better able to explain the relevance and value of their services to clients and their communities. We must recognise the unique skills, roles and responsibilities midwives bring to delivery care, and to the central role that midwives play in making motherhood safer”, she stressed.
To ensure that they are well trained and skilfully empowered to deliver the women of Ghana who have always delivered for Ghana, Mrs Hanson maintained that the training of this calibre of health workers must be critically looked. It is by so doing that the slogan adopted at the launch of the Ghana Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa - CARMMA which is “Ghana cares, no woman should die whilst giving life” could make any meaningful impact.
It is also after we have had enough well-equipped midwives that the unacceptably high maternal mortality ratio of 451 deaths per 100,000 live births (Ghana Maternal Health Survey, 2007) could be reduced.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'GHS, GMA can't do it alone' (Front Page)

THE refusal of health professionals to accept posting to deprived areas has evoked reactions from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), which say that the issue has gone beyond mere appeals to the conscience of individuals.
They said the critical human resource problem affecting health delivery in deprived areas, especially the northern part of the country, needed to be tackled within the general framework of addressing the inequities in the country’s development pattern.
Speaking on the issue to the Daily Graphic, the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Elias K. Sory, said since the service could not force any health professional to accept posting under the circumstances, the name of any such worker was usually taken from the payroll of the GHS.
He said the issue of the refusal of some health professionals to go to deprived areas had reached a stage where the GHS alone could not handle and, therefore, called for a holistic national approach to tackle the issue.
He said it was important for Ghana to tackle the issue with the seriousness it deserved, since there were other opportunities elsewhere, be it outside the country or in the private sector, for those professionals to take advantage of.
The director-general said the health sector had, over the years, tried hard to encourage health professionals to work in less developed communities but it seemed its packages had outlived their impact and needed to be looked at again and soon.
He explained that a policy was introduced around 2004 and 2005 to pay between 25 and 30 per cent of the salaries of doctors who worked in deprived areas and pointed out that doctors who worked in urban areas could earn more than that in an hour by doing part-time work.
He noted that unlike past years when people accepted to work under any conditions, currently things had reached a point where doctors, like many other public workers, considered economic benefits before working for experience or being patriotic.
Dr Sory said many doctors failed to accept posting to the rural areas because they could not earn as much as their colleagues in the cities and town.
That situation, he pointed out, was in addition to the lack of accommodation, schools for their children, as well as other social amenities, for those who accepted to work in those areas.
Dr Sory suggested that in addition to adequate incentives, there was the need for all the regional hospitals to be upgraded to teaching hospitals where young doctors would be made to practise within the communities after training and also be encouraged to work there.
He, however, noted that it was not only the three northern regions which had problems with inadequate health workers but also some areas which included remote areas in the Western Region.
Commenting on the same issue, the GMA stated that the matter of chronic shortage of health professionals in deprived areas, especially in northern Ghana, should be a matter of concern to all actors in the health delivery programme.
In an interview , the General Secretary of the association, Dr Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey, said while the startling doctor/patient ratio was an issue, equally important was the challenge of securing the right mix of professionals.
“We know, for example, that the Upper East and Upper West regions have only one obstetrician-gynaecologist each, with dire implications for the reduction of maternal mortality.
“But as serious as the issues are, our solutions have up till now only been limited to banal appeals to people’s consciences and the writing of critical editorials in the national dailies. The fact that the human resource challenge persists after many years of this kind of approach should alert us to look beyond the superficial and adopt bold and pragmatic measures that will give us the skills mix that we desire,” he pointed out.
Dr Sodzi-Tettey said it was in that light that the GMA dedicated the whole of its 51st AGM in November 2009 to the theme, “Towards a Better Health care for Ghana - the Human Resource Challenges and Solutions”, with Vice-President John Mahama as the special guest of honour.
He said following that, the following suggestions had been put forth by the association, including the need for a comprehensive human resource strategy to be designed by the human resource divisions of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the GHS.
He observed that such a well-thought out strategy would ensure that, as happened last year, doctors would not assume position in the Northern Region and elsewhere in some notion of serving the nation only to have their salaries blocked in Accra, making those doctors the only ones in their facilities to return to Accra and spend months chasing salaries from one department to another.
He also said there should be an end to the situation where once a doctor accepted posting to a deprived area, he/she virtually became a prisoner in that area, with little or no opportunities for scholarships and further professional/career advancement.
He touched on the lack of accommodation, adding that “it may surprise you to know that if some deprived places were to be flooded by even 20 nurses, there would be no accommodation for them”.
The GMA General Secretary pointed out that contrary to popular belief, there was no deprived area incentive or allowance that was given to the doctor serving in an area like Bongo in the Upper East where the doctor/patient ratio is 1:82,000.
“Till we come to the point that others have in other countries of creating significant disparities in salaries and emoluments between doctors and other health professionals working in rural/deprived areas and in more endowed ones, we will not understand what it will take to start reversing this trend,” he stated.

Ghana joins the world to to observe World Childhood Cancers Day.(Mirror)

Sat. February 19, 2010

THE world has recognised the threat of childhood cancers and has therefore, dedicated February 15, every year as the International Childhood Cancer Day.
The importance of the day is to: Educate the general public about childhood cancer; to raise money through fund-raising events for childhood cancer needs world-wide and in each country, and also promote the work of local parent organisations.
To mark the day in Ghana, the Ghana Parents’ Association for Childhood Cancers (GHAPACC) in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS), organised a press briefing last Monday, February 15, 2010. As part of the event, the association has plans to organise a a sponsored walk scheduled for Saturday, February 20, 2010 and also raise funds in support of childhood cancer activities globally and also in the country.
At the press briefing in Accra, a consultant at the Paediatric Unit of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), Dr Lorna Awo Renner, said about 1,200 children below age 15 were presumed to be affected with childhood cancers in Ghana yearly.
That she said, accounted for about 17 per cent of deaths, the highest percentage at the Korle Bu Teaching (KBTH).
Dr Rennner pointed out only 150 of these cases were seen yearly by the largest cancer centre in the country which is located at the KBTH.
Speaking at the press conference, the Head of Cancer Unit of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Kofi Nyarko, said though the service was working hard to deal with the issue of child cancer, treatment of the disease was relatively high due to inadequate funding.
He called on the government to examine the alarming figures resulting from childhood cancers and to respond by including them in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for their effective treatment.
For his part, the Chairman of the Ghana Parents Association for Childhood Cancers (GPACC), Mr Felix Kwame Aveh, said the association was organised to contribute to promoting the needs of children with cancer and other life-threatening blood disorders.
He explained that the association aimed at providing support for children diagnosed with cancer diseases, providing information and logistics for practical use for parents, as well as organising support groups to assist children and their families to cope with the stress that the diagnosis brought about.
Additional information provided earlier by Dr Renner indicated that about 250,000 children get cancer in the world each year.
She noted that in Ghana, there was no comprehensive epidemiological data on the magnitude of childhood cancers but using estimates from incidence data in more developed countries, about 1 in 500 children will be affected.
“ With our population of over 20 million, we would expect about 1,200 children below 15 years of age to be affected yearly”, she indicated.
Unfortunately , in Ghana there are only two centres with paediatric cancer units where children with cancers could be treated and these are the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.
According to Dr Renner, documented evidence showed that there was a change in the types of cancers most frequently seen adding that in the 1990’s, lymphomas accounted for 67 per cent followed by eye cancer (retinoblastoma) which accounted for eight per cent, leukaemia eight per cent, and kidney cancer seven per cent. She pointed out that current data shows that only 37 per cent of cases were lymphomas now adding that leukaemia cases have doubled to 18 per cent, then eye cancers 12 per cent, kidney cancers eight per cent and other previously rarer cancers were now being diagnosed more frequently. The reasons for this changing pattern, are therefore yet to be determined by medical experts.
Information provided by Dr Renner pointed out that very little was known about the cause of most childhood cancers adding that many types had highest incidence at an early age suggesting causative factors operated before birth.
Among the rare factors are environmental which comes as a result of radiation; infections - viruses for example E-B virus; Hepatitis B virus and HIV.
Others are genetic factors indicating that less than five per cent of childhood cancers could be attributed directly to genetic factors, for example there is a hereditary form of eye cancer.
To detect cancers in children, the following symptoms are useful for public awareness about early presentation of childhood cancer. And these are: S – seek help for persistent symptoms; I – eye signs, white spot, squint, blindness, bulging eye; L – lumps in abdomen, head, neck, glands; U – unexplained fever, weight loss, bleeding, pallor, fatigue; A – aches in bones, back, fractures; N – neurological change in balance, gait, behaviour, headache.
The general lack of awareness about childhood cancer is compounded by adverse socio-cultural practices and limited access to services, with few health workers trained in paediatric cancer management. Other limitations include inadequate diagnostic services, unavailability of and unaffordable costs of chemotherapeutic agents, limited access to suitable protocols and inadequate supportive care.
To address this issue of childhood cancer before we are overtaken by it as a nation, Dr Renner advised that it was important to: Raise public awareness to the early signs and symptoms; invest in capacity building of health workers for early detection and referral; set up treatment centres in all regions with the capacity to provide rapid diagnosis and treatment including adequate supportive care; develop appropriate national treatment protocols bearing in mind the limited resources.
She also appealed that the country should ensure that children’s cancer care was fully included in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS); advocate strongly for resources for cancer control programmes that included prevention, early detection and care including palliative care; among other things.

Monday, February 22, 2010

NADMO orders checks on electrical wiring

Sat. February 20, 2010

THE National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) has asked for immediate checks on electrical cords in all public buildings with a view to replacing faulty ones.
It also asked private property owners to do same and cautioned that electricity users should avoid plugging more than one extension cord into an outlet since such practice could easily create fire.
Major Nicholas Mensah (retd), the Public Relations Officer of the organisation, made the suggestions in a set of tit-bits released to help prevent further outbreaks of fire in the country.
In a leaflet titled “Fire Safety at Workplace”, NADMO advised workers to ensure that appliances and switches were put off after working hours or when power supply was cut.
It also talked about the need for workers to know the location of fire exits so as to access them in case of fire and also the need for each worker to know the fire plan of the workplace.
Emergency numbers provided by NADMO are Ghana Police Service:191, Ghana National Fire Service: 192, National Ambulance Service: 193, NADMO: 021-77926/021-780541.
In recent times the country has witnessed series of fire outbreaks, some devastating. The most recent incident was an intense fire on February 14, 2010, described by rescuers as “rapid and fast”, which razed to ashes the Ridge residence of former President J.J. Rawlings, with nothing to salvage from the debris.
While no life was lost, the disaster left behind the depressing spectacle of the ruins of a house which firemen had tried in vain for three hours to salvage.
Before then, on January 18, a huge inferno engulfed the Loading Gantry of the Tema Oil Refinery, claiming the lives of two workers of the plant and injuring others.
Also destroyed in the blaze were company equipment and nine fuel tankers.
Other state property which had also had their share of fire outbreaks were the Ministry of Information, which had witnessed two of such cases, first at a deputy minister’s office and again on Wednesday afternoon, the ministry’s storeroom, where some items, including materials to be used in making Ghana flags for the 53th Independence Day celebration, were burnt.
Other areas were part of the Electoral Commission (EC), the Accra Metro Education office at Kinbu, portions of the Forestry Commission (FC) situated within the Achimota Forest and the the 10-storey building which used house the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was completely destroyed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Two more human resource managers interdicted over fraud

TWO more human resource managers with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) have been interdicted on allegations of fraud.
The two were heads of the human resource directorates in the Greater Accra and the Central regional offices of the GHS.
Late last year, the Ashanti Regional Human Resource Manager, Mr Gershon Agbo, who was believed to be the architect of the alleged deals, was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in Kumasi where he was made to refund GH¢50,000 after which he was interdicted.
The GHS officials alleged that the date of employment of some junior employees of the service were back-dated to enable them to receive huge salary arrears out of which those employees paid large portions of the booty to the human resource managers.
According to the officials, since the number of the employees was large, the alleged criminals were able to siphon large sums of state funds into their private accounts.
The Director-General of the GHS, Dr Elias Sory, told the Daily Graphic in Accra that the alleged crime was detected when an audit team visited some of the health service directorates after there were repeated cases of anomalies on the staff payroll.
He said so many things happened with the staff payroll to the extent that there was a time that he, the Director-General, and the head of the service had his name deleted from the payroll.
Dr Sory said an auditing exercise began in 2009 and had already covered the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Central and Volta regions. He expressed the hope that by the time the whole nation was covered, the system would be cleared of all anomalies.
Dr Sory said the service had saved about GH¢500,000 on its budgetary allocation since the auditing began, adding that “it is either because names of non-existent staff are getting off the payroll or some people who used to benefit from the deals are changing their ways or leaving the service”.
For his part, the Human Resource Director of the GHS, Dr McDaniel Dedzo, said a request had been made to the Ministry of Health (MoH) for additional financial support to enable the audit team to conduct thorough auditing throughout the country.
He said the auditing had to cover a three-year period beginning from 2007 so that wrongdoers would be found and punished and anybody mistakenly accused would have the opportunity to clear his or her name.
Dr Dedzo said the law indicated that individuals on interdiction were paid a certain portion of their salary until such time that they were either found guilty or innocent.
He said the guilty ones would face the law while the innocent would be paid back all monies deducted as they stayed home.
The Human Resource Director said preliminary investigations had revealed that the deal seemed to originate from one source which had links in the other regions where he got assistance.
He said the audit team was made up of the staff of the internal audit unit, the finance department and the human resource department of the GHS, adding that since they worked within the service, it was easier for them to pinpoint the loopholes in the system.
In September last year the Daily Graphic reported that the GHS had uncovered some cases of fraud involving some human resource personnel who had allegedly siphoned and embezzled state funds.
The alleged crime, which was detected in the Ashanti, Central and Greater Accra regions, was believed to be widespread.
The alleged principal architect of the crime, Mr Gershon Agbo, who is the Human Resource Director of the Ashanti Regional Health Directorate, has already been ordered by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in Kumasi to refund GH¢50,000 and has also been interdicted.
The story was confirmed to the Daily Graphic by Dr Sory, and the Ashanti Regional Director of Health Services, Alhaji Dr Mohammed Bin Ibrahim, in separate interviews.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Addressing Ghana’s high maternal mortality rate

Sat. February 13, 2010
GHANA, like other developing countries has a high maternal mortality rate. The Ghana Maternal Health Survey, 2007 indicates that maternal mortality ratio in Ghana remains unacceptably high at 451 deaths per 100,000 live births
In addition, statistics from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) also indicates that 953 women died in 2008 from pregnancy and delivery complications in our health facilities. This figure, according to the GHS, did not include those women who died silently in communities who were quietly buried without registration.
It noted that out of that number, adolescents represented 104 which is 10.9 per cent with Ashanti Region recording the highest figure of 22 adolescent maternal deaths, followed by Greater Accra with 15, Western had 11, Brong Ahafo regions with 13, Volta, Central and Eastern regions recorded nine each, while the Upper East and the Upper West regions had two each.
Health experts refer to maternal death as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy. That is irrespective of the duration and the site of pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management. The death should not be accidental or incidental but purely pregnancy related.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says maternal mortality represents the greatest health inequity in the world. Aside it, no other health indicator starkly illustrates global disparities in human development.
It went on to state that the tragedies of maternal mortality is a key indicator of not only the value placed on women, and by extension, children's lives, but also a reflection of the level of development in the country.
“Apart from the human tragedy associated with the death of any woman through preventable maternal causes, another family is deprived of a principal breadwinner and reduction in the survival of the existing children in the family”, it pointed out.
Information provided by the Country Midwifery Advisor of UNFPA in Ghana, Mrs Fredrica Enyonam Hanson indicated that the linkages between women's sexual and reproductive rights; inequality; lack of opportunities and choices; as well as poor sexual and reproductive health and its manifestation in high maternal mortality, made maternal mortality a recurring challenge affecting the pace of development in Ghana.
Mrs Hanson pointed out that despite heightened efforts to reduce maternal deaths in Ghana over the last decade, the country lagged behind in achieving both national and internationally agreed targets as stated under MDG 5.
These intervention, according to her, included the priorities of the Sector Programme of Work, the Poverty Eradication Action Plan, and the country’s declaration of maternal mortality a national emergency in 2008.
Results recorded by the UNFPA indicate that in spite of all those efforts, low coverage of skilled attendance at birth in Ghana remains a major contributor. The inadequacies in skilled attendance at birth are further evidenced by the high neo-natal mortality of 45 deaths per 1000 live births contributing almost 60 per cent of infant deaths in Ghana (GMHS 2007).
Looking at the statistics, it is important the health sector, individual organisations and families make efforts to ensure that mothers are safe.
Safe motherhood is defined as “creating the circumstances within which a woman is enabled to choose whether she will become pregnant, and if she does, ensuring she receives care for prevention and treatment of pregnancy complications, has access to trained birth attendants, has access to emergency obstetric care if she needs it, and care after birth, so that she can avoid death or disability from complications of pregnancy and childbirth”.
Safe Motherhood, according to health professional meant the well-being of a woman during pregnancy, labour and delivery as well as the period thereafter.
In the words of Mrs Hanson, it is unacceptable for 451 women out of every 100,000 babies born alive to die through pregnancy related complications in Ghana. She like other like-minded individuals see safe motherhood as a public health as well as a human rights issue.
She said a woman's health affected every area of her life because of the multiple roles she played in the family, community and the society as a whole and as such, the need for a concerted effort from all stakeholders in maintaining the health of a woman during pregnancy, labour and delivery and in the post-partum period should not be taken for granted adding that women needed to be empowered to decide freely on issues that affected their health.
“We cannot make this happen in our part of the world when we do not involve men. Men should see women as partners who should be supported”, she stressed.
She observed that complications of pregnancy and child birth were usually not predictable but prevention of the fatality was possible when there was early recognition and effective management of the situation.
A 2007 WHO report indicates that 15 per cent of pregnant women may develop complications during pregnancy and childbirth as against 85 per cent who will go through pregnancy and childbirth without any complications. This means that out of every 100 pregnancies, there is a probability that 15 of them will develop complications. It is these 15 per cent mentioned above who suffer complications that contribute to the maternal deaths we record. Among these obstetric complications, haemorrhage/bleeding is the leading cause of death in Ghana accounting for 29 per cent of maternal deaths last year (GHS annual report).
This situation is further worsened by the three delays which are: Delay in the home, delay in accessing the health facility and lastly delay in receiving care at a health facility. Other major causes include obstructed labour, infections, pregnancy induced hypertension and complications of unsafe abortion.
There are lot to be done to prevent this unfortunate situation and among them is increasing women's access to health services which is seen as a major factor in decreasing maternal mortality.
It is stated that while the majority of women receive ante-natal care, 45 per cent of births still occurred at home and only 55 per cent were assisted by skilled providers, making it difficult for women to receive the care they need in case of complications.
Another issue is preventing unplanned pregnancies, which health workers maintained could reduce unsafe abortions and maternal deaths, especially among young women by about 30 per cent.
Most maternal deaths occur during labour, delivery, or the first 24 hours after delivery, and most complications as mentioned earlier cannot be prevented or predicted. Skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the immediate postpartum period, by health care professionals with appropriate skills have been recognised as the key interventions to reduce maternal mortality. Skilled birth attendants include midwives and other health professionals with midwifery skills.
It must, however, be noted that for skilled birth attendants to effectively perform, they need the necessary emergency obstetric care facilities and equipment in order to prevent the senseless deaths of our mothers and sometimes their children which had continued over the years.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Drivers who ply Motorway can buy stickers

DRIVERS who often use the Accra-Tema motorway can register to purchase stickers for a specific period of time instead of paying for road tolls on a daily basis.
That is expected to ease congestion at the toll booths on the motorway since vehicles with such stickers could quickly pass through without spending time at the booths.
The exercise, which is currently on a pilot basis, is supposed to take place near the automated toll booth on the Tema Motorway.
This came out during question-and-answer time on Tuesday when the Minister for Roads and Highways, Mr Joe Gidisu, had his turn at the weekly meet-the-press series organised by the Ministry of Information in Accra.
Present at the programme were the outgoing Minister for Information, Mrs Zita Okaikoi, one of her deputies, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, and some top officials of the Ministry of Roads and Highways.
Mr Gidisu said there were plans to provide special package for commercial drivers who plied the tolled roads on a regular basis in order to enjoy some rebate.
He held a stakeholders meeting to that effect on Wednesday to enable transport owners and drivers to deliberate on how best to handle the situation.
He said currently, there was a total of 29 toll booths throughout the country, adding that there were also plans to increase the number in order to cover all major roads in the country.
Mr Gidisu said that had become necessary because looking at the available toll booths, one could see that they were not evenly distributed. He went on to cite the Accra-Kumasi road where, in spite of its long distance, had only one collection point where similar roads had more such points.
The Roads Minister said his outfit was aware of some heavy duty vehicle drivers who tried to evade payment of the tolls by using unapproved routes. He cautioned them to desist from such practice, else the police would deal with them.
He said in addition to dodging the toll booths, these drivers tended to destroy the roads since they avoided the axle load weighing exercises which checked the right weight being carried on roads to protect their lifespan.
He, therefore, pleaded with Ghanaians to support the government in its decision to increase the road and bridge tolls, and gave an assurance that every pesewa collected at the collection points would be put to good use.
“There will be daily monitoring of activities at the toll booths, so there is no way that anybody will have the chance of misusing the funds”, Mr Gidisu stressed.
On the question of the progress on the Achimota-Ofankor road, the minister said some significant payment had been made to the contractors, pointing out that the road would be completed by the end of the year.

Commercial production of Pozzonala cement starts June (Spread)

GHANA will commence the large-scale production of Pozzolana cement in June this year.
The factory, which will be situated in the Gomoa area in the Central Region, is expected to produce 4,000 bags of cement per day.
This was made known in Accra yesterday by the Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ms Sherry Ayittey, when she had her turn at the meet-the-press series organised by the Ministry of Information.
The event centred on the programmes and projects of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The CSIR is the largest scientific organisation in Ghana, with 13 research institutes, each of which has a mandate to cover a specialised area of importance for the growth and development of the country.
Specific issues the minister touched on included agriculture and processing, industry, infrastructure, the environment, health, as well as human resource.
Addressing journalists, Ms Ayittey said Pozzolana had the potential to replace by 40 per cent the Portland cement used in the country and save the country $30 million per year on clinker imports.
Pozzolana, a good substitute for clinker which is used in Portland cement, is made from local clay. The product was developed by CSIR.
Ms Ayittey pointed out that Ghana’s Pozzolana cement had been tested and proved internationally to be very durable.
She noted that the establishment of the factory would provide jobs for the youth, as well as reduce foreign exchange expended on clinker imports, adding that “it will also reduce the cost of housing and make affordable housing truly affordable”.
The minister also touched on the development of other building construction technologies, including the fast-track, cost-saving construction technique which aimed at optimising available local resources in construction with the potential of reducing conventional house building cost by between 15 and 20 per cent.
Ms Ayittey disclosed that the government had constituted an inter-ministerial team to ensure that local raw materials were utilised aggressively in the building and construction industry.
Touching on agriculture and processing, she said the CSIR nurtured many of the local agro-processing companies by developing processing technologies, providing training for personnel, undertaking chemical and microbiological analysis of their products, as well as fabricating the appropriate machinery and equipment to meet the competition.
“Examples are Neat Foods Limited, Elsa Foods Limited, Flakan Foods Limited, Pioneer Food Cannery Limited, Ghana Agro-Foods Company Limited, Blue Skies, among others,” she stated.
The minister also touched on the other works the council was doing in the development of poultry, grasscutter rearing, aquaculture, the manufacture of palm kernel extractors, among others.
She also talked about the development of industrial crops such as cotton and also the introduction of high-yielding and pest-resistant Kapaala variety of sorghum which could be used in the brewery industry.
Under the environment and health, Ms Ayittey said the CSIR had developed a technology known as biochar which had the ability to suppress the emission of greenhouse gases and also improve the physical structure of soil, adding that the council, through technology, had reclaimed more than 250 hectares of degraded forest in 10 areas in the Afrensu Brohuma Forest Reserve, the Pamu Berekum Forest Reserve and the Southern Scarp Forest Reserve.
On waste management, she said the CSIR had designed and supervised the construction of bio-sanitation toilet systems for the new Ankaful Maximum Security Prison near Cape Coast, adding that the project would generate biogas from human excreta to be utilised by the prison kitchen and also for natural fertiliser for the prison farms.
That is in addition to the construction of three incinerators at the Abokobi, Engresi and Nkawkaw District hospitals.
She hinted that the country would organise an international science congress around October this year to enable Ghanaian scientists to showcase what they were capable of doing and also share ideas with one another, as well as their colleagues from neighbouring countries.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Higher tolls justified-Roads minister affirms (Spread)

THE Government’s decision to increase bridge and road tolls should not be seen as its of insensitivity to the plight of Ghanaians, but a bold attempt to save a bad situation.
Taking his turn at the weekly meet-the-press series in Accra yesterday, the Minister for Roads and Highways, Mr Joe Gidisu, said the time had come for the government to increase the tolls to raise enough revenue for road maintenance, which is important to national development.
The minister stated that the increase in tolls was estimated to move from GH¢2.9 million in 2009 to GH¢19.5 million in 2010.
“The proportion from this source of revenue will, therefore, increase from 1.8 per cent to 12 per cent of total receipts into the Road Fund,” Mr Gidisu said.
He said the implementation of the law (Act 793 of 2009), which took effect from February 1, 2010, had begun yielding some positive results and went ahead to say that the total daily revenue collected from all the 29 toll points throughout the country had increased from GH¢8,114 to GH¢97,299 since the increase.
The minister, therefore, called for public support, adding that the maintenance of the roads by way of routine and periodic maintenance was important, if not critical, in the protection of the huge investments made in the road sector.
He said currently, the Road Fund was indebted to road contractors who undertook maintenance works to the tune of about GH¢120 million, adding that “this amount is different from the GH¢160 million arrears which the government recently realised for projects undertaken under the Consolidated Fund”.
The Roads and Highways Minister pointed out that because the government was unable to raise enough revenue to clear the heavy indebtedness to the road contractors, the contractors were reluctant to undertake maintenance works, making it difficult for the sector to undertake such works on timely basis.
Mr Gidisu said the Road Fund Board had over the years been unable to secure regular increments in levies, tolls and fees to correspond with the rising cost of road maintenance, adding that all additional revenues to be accrued from the increase would be properly used for the maintenance of the road network, which is about 67,000 kilometres.
He explained that while levy on petroleum products accounted for about 94 per cent of the revenue for road maintenance, the road and bridge tolls contributed only 1.8 per cent.
He said the routine and periodic maintenance of our roads and their rehabilitation were funded from the resources of the Road Fund, a fund dedicated to these activities, adding that the Road Fund had on the average been providing a total of about GH¢110 million towards these activities.
He stressed that the total receipts from these sources were not adequate to meet the total maintenance needs of the road sector, hence the increase to raise more revenue.
“The fund can only cover about 55 per cent of the total maintenance needs in a given year, leaving a backlog of about 45 per cent,” the minister noted.
He said the government was aware that since January 1999, the road and bridge tolls and the fuel levy had not been increased, resulting in the current poor state of roads.
“We must, therefore, appreciate the increase in the light of the immense benefits that will accrue to all Ghanaians. We will therefore like to request our fellow compatriots to bear with us, since there is the assurance that the increased resources of the fund will be put to good use,” he stressed.
He gave the assurance that there were plans to consider drivers who used such roads more often to see how best to reduce how much they should pay.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

CHRAJ unable to proceed with M&J probe

THE Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) says it has been unable to conduct speedy investigations into the Mabey and Johnson (M&J) bribery allegations because it has not received all the documentation on the allegations. The Commission noted that it had not received the relevant documents regarding its request for Mutual Legal Assistance from the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to enable it to conduct investigation into the allegations.
The commission, however, said it hoped to commence a formal hearing into the allegations made against some Ghanaian officials as soon as it received documents requested from the SFO (UK) through Ghana’s Attorney General.
In a statement signed by the Commissioner, Mr Emile Francis Short, the Commission said it appreciated the importance of bringing closure to its investigations as soon as possible, adding that “It is for this reason that the Commission is deeply concerned about its inability to obtain from the SFO (UK) some documents which formed the basis for the allegations made against the officials being investigated.
“We hope that the ongoing communications between the UK Central Authority and the Attorney General would result in the Commission receiving the documentation as soon as possible,”
The statement said on October 7, 2009 the Commission commenced preliminary investigations into the allegations of corruption relating to the operations of Mabey and Johnson Limited (M&J) in Ghana in the 1990s, which have been made against certain former public officials.
A summary of allegations indicated that during the 1990s M&J was awarded a number of contracts by the Ghanaian Government, including the Priority Bridge Programme 1 in 1994 with the value of £14 million; Priority Bridge Programme 2 in 1996 with the value of £8 million; the Department of Feeder Roads Project in 1998 with the value of £3.5 million.
It pointed out that according to the UK SFO, in order to establish its business in Ghana, M&J appointed agents to act on its behalf. Payments of commission to agents, according to the report, was a routine aspect of the company’s business, authorised at director level and so these payments were structured into the company’s commercial processes and were factored into contract pricing.
Public officials mentioned in the allegations by the UK SFO were Brig-Gen Lord Attivor, Dr George Sipa-Adjah Yankey, Dr Ato Quarshie, Alhaji Boniface Abubarkar Saddique, Alhaji Amadu Seidu and Mr Kwame Peprah. The office also alleged that Baba Kamara served as an agent and he used his influence to corruptly secure contracts for M&J.
It stated it was alleged by the UK SFO that in Ghana and very much to the knowledge of M&J, the agents were involved in corrupt relationships with public officials of influence over M&J affairs, adding that “the bribes were deducted from the overall commission due to agents”.
The statement said the Commission on October 7, 2009 commenced preliminary investigations into the allegations of corruption pursuant to its anti-corruption mandate under Article 218 (e) of 1992 Constitution to “investigate all instances of alleged or suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public monies by officials and take appropriate steps...”
The allegations were first made public during investigation by the UK’s SFO into activities of M&J in Ghana and other countries, including Jamaica.
The CHRAJ statement indicated that its decision to commence investigations followed various media publications and discussions of the allegations in the aftermath of the Sentence Hearing, having particular regard to the Commission’s duty to investigate all instances of alleged or suspected corruption and misappropriation of public monies by officials.
It said it was significant to note that throughout the investigation, the CHTAJ had been mindful of the fact that the hearing of the Southwark Crown Court proceeded on the basis of pleas of guilt and agreement about the above-mentioned allegations between M&J and the SFO.
“None of the named former public officials was before the court. The Commission has and would continue to afford the named public officials every opportunity to respond to and challenge the allegations made against them,” it stated.
It stressed that the allegations made against the Ghanaian officials involved transnational transactions that required co-operation not only from the M&J but also for the SFO.
“In this regard, the Commission has been unable to proceed as expeditiously as expected because it has not received all the documentation on which the allegations made are hinged,” it stressed.

Accra water situation worsens-Experts look for foreign help (Spread)

GHANA is seeking international assistance to rectify a major engineering defect which has severely affected water supply at the Weija Water Works and reduced daily production from 55 million gallons to 11 million.
The damage has virtually crippled the water supply situation in the national capital, with the western part of Accra being the most affected.
The need to seek foreign expertise has arisen because engineers of Aqua Vitens Rand, operators of the urban water systems in the country and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has not been able to find solutions to the damage.
Experts from the two institutions say the crisis has arisen because of damage to the electrical control panels that supply power to the pumps that draw raw water from the Densu River at the Weija Water Works for processing, reports Charles Benoni Okine.
Information gathered by Daily Graphic yesterday indicated that not even the local representatives of the South African company that sold the control panels to Ballast Nedam, the company that installed the panels, were able to repair the damaged panels.
“The local representatives of that company have now copied the serial numbers of the four panels and sent them to South Africa for the manufacturers to see what they can do about the damaged panels,” a source said.
The source said considering the severity of the problem, an option to consider should the next move fail would be the acquisition of new control panels that would take up to a month to import.
The other challenge would have to do with the procurement procedures as per the laws of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA).
The Managing Director of GWCL, Mr Mintah Aboagye told the Daily Graphic on Sunday that the fault developed on Thursday when one of the valves got burst, and indicated that the fault on the valve was rectified, reports Musa Yahaya Jafaru.
He said thereafter his outfit detected that three of the pumps could not pump water into the reservoirs.
Mr Mintah said initially, the GWCL blamed the situation on low power voltage.
Therefore, he said, his outfit contacted the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to come and improve the electricity supply.
He said the ECG technical officers came to work on the electricity supply on Saturday, but still the pumps could not pump the water.
Mr Mintah said it was then that the technical officers detected that the fault was in the panels as they could not supply enough power to activate the pumps.
He said the technical officers could not fix the panels as they did not take part in the installation of the panels.
Mr Mintah said the only officer who took part in the installation was outside Accra, and said he was called to come and help rectify the situation.
He stated that the company had contacted the resident office of the contractors to come and assist in rectifying the fault.
Meanwhile, Mr Mintah said, the GWCL was working towards channelling water from Kpong into some reservoirs in Accra in order to ease the water situation in the city.
He assured the public that the company was working round the clock to rectify the fault and start full water supply.
Lucy Adoma Yeboah reports that residents at Sowutuom, Santa Maria and Kwashieman had to travel long distances carrying all manner of containers in search of water.
The water situation in those areas, which has always been problematic, seemed to be worse over the few past days.
Residents, mostly women and children, were seen in the neighbourhood with yellow containers, commonly refereed to as “Kufuor gallons”, trying to fetch water from streams, wells and even gutters in the neighbourhood.
A resident of Sowutuom, Ms Afia Mainoo, said instead of the weekly supply of water to the area, no water had passed through their taps for two weeks , a situation which she described as terrible.
In his report, Samuel Kyei-Boateng indicated that the acute water shortage which hit parts of the national capital from Thursday was creating serious hardships for residents.
The affected areas visited were Adabraka, Dansoman, Sukura, Russia, Mateheko, Sakaman, Mallam, Kanashie and Odorkor.
Residents were compelled to resort to fetching water from unhygienic sources such as shallow wells for the their activities, a situation which could lead to the outbreak of water-borne diseases.
The Daily Graphic was informed by some of the residents that water was sold between GH¢15 and GH¢20??? per 15-litre????? plastic container.
Due to the water crisis people are privileged to have water from boreholes or wells and one of such hand-dug wells at Adabraka Official Town is being patronised daily by more than 200 people who live in Abuja and Agbogbloshie, among other neighbourhoods who had to queue for the water.
Daily Graphic investigations revealed that some people also bought sachet water for their daily activities such as bathing, washing of clothes and for flushing their water-closet toilets.
Managers of some hotels in the affected areas confirmed in separate interviews that they bought purified water in large quantities for their guests for bathing and flushing of toilets.
Schoolchildren at Chorkor, Mamprobi and Osu have been affected by the acute water shortage in the Accra Metropolis, reports Henrietta Brocke.
As a result of the problem, some of them were unable to attend school yesterday.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the headmistress of the Socco Primary School at Mamprobi, Ms Esther Insaidoo, said out of 53 pupils in class six only 14 had reported at 8a.m. yesterday.
She added that in Basic One(Class One), out of the 35 pupils, only 15 reported, Class Two had 23 out of 48 and Primary Five 31 out of 56.
Asked whether there would be effective lessons, Ms Insaidoo answered in affirmative since other students were present.
The Assistant Headmistress of Mamprobi “1” Junior High School, Ms Vivian Abbey, said school was in progress, but noted that attendance was not encouraging.
The Regional Production Manager of the GWCL, Mr Michael Amuakwa, told the Daily Graphic that measures were being put in place to provide water for some important institutions such as Korle- Bu Teaching Hospital, the Castle and other state institutions.
He said due to the situation, girls schools in Accra could contact the Ghana Water Company Limited for assistance because of their peculiar situation.
Ayesha Dah reports that since Friday, residents of Kokomlemle, Caprice, Accra Newtown and others in the northern part Accra had experienced severe shortage of water, forcing residents to rely on any available water for use.
Residents in those areas were yesterday carrying gallons and jerry cans in search of water. Some of them were spotted fetching water from a gutter opposite the Nima Police Station.
A woman who identified herself only as Amaria told the Daily Graphic that although water did not usually run in Nima, the situation had worsened since the places residents usually went to for water in times of need were currently in the same predicament.
She said since there was no other source of water supply, the water from the gutter would be used for cooking, bathing and washing.
Matilda Attram reports that some residents who spoke to the Daily Graphic on the situation said they travelled all the way from Adabraka to Circle and Kanda to buy water for their activities.
A porridge seller at Kokomlemle, Aminatu Karim , told the Daily Graphic that the situation had slowed business since she had to travel to Kanda with her children every morning to fetch water before the preparation of her porridge.
"It has affected my business because I have to go and sell late in the morning," she said.
The situation at the Ridge Hospital yesterday morning was no better.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the Medical Director of the Hospital, Dr George Acquaye, pointed out that the hospital already had a problem with water situation even at normal times when there was no water shortage in town.
He said the situation became worse when there was shortage of water in surrounding areas.
Dr Acquaye indicated that the hospital occasionally depended on Zoomlion Ghana Limited, GWCL and private water tankers for water for its operations.
He further indicated that at the time of Daily Graphic's visit to the hospital it had four out of eight reservoirs filled with water but added that the hospital could run out of water within a day or two.
Meanwhile the situation at the Adabraka Polyclinic, however, seemed normal as workers of the clinic told the Daily Graphic the clinic had no problem with water supply.
They further said the clinic's main tap was flowing yesterday morning and so water had been reserved for emergency purposes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

ECG adds voice to demand for higher tariffs

THE Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has joined the Volta River Authority (VRA) in its latest demand for payment of higher tariffs by the Ghanaian consumer.
It said the demand for higher cost of electric power had become necessary, since the government was not in a position to provide adequately for the company to replace its obsolete equipment.
Top officials of the company told the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday that a proposal was sent to the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) in October 2009, adding that that was in fulfilment of a 60-day notice it was supposed to give to the regulatory authority to enable it to make an input and give approval.
Without giving in percentage terms how much the ECG would want to charge, the Managing Director (MD), Mr Cephas Gakpo, said the company could only do that after an approval had been given by the PURC.
He explained that as things stood now, the company would need the support of the public to understand the need for them to make some sacrifices to ensure that the system for transmitting power to various areas was saved from total collapse.
He drew the attention of the public to the fact that “supply reliability has become compromised”, adding that the problems could be seen through frequent outages, interruptions, as well as low voltage in many parts of the country.
For its part, the VRA, on February 4, 2010, said the 2007 tariffs were out of date, since inflation had gone up and the cedi had also depreciated against the dollar over the years.
Adding his voice to the demand by the VRA, Mr Gakpo said the ECG was facing difficult times due to the continuous rise in crude oil prices, as well as the depreciation of the cedi against the dollar, adding that the situation had made the little gain the company made when tariffs were increased in 2007 irrelevant.
He, therefore, called on the public to support the management of the ECG to raise enough revenue.
Throwing more light on the issue, the MD noted that the same amount of money which was used to purchase 13 units of power in 2007 could currently be used for only eight units, adding that the company lost GH¢10 million in 2009 through under recovery.
He also pointed out that a lot of the equipment being used by the company to transmit power was too old and needed to be replaced, explaining that the situation had deteriorated to the extent that equipment which needed to be used as reserve to support others when there was a fault was all being used at the same time.
Mr Gakpo said there was also the need for the expansion of ECG’s operations, considering the fact that its consumer rate was growing at seven per cent per year, adding that the capacity of the equipment should double within the next 10 years, else it would fail to serve the people.
He said in addition to the low tariffs, other challenges the company was facing were the failure of some two million consumers to pay their bills, illegal connections and power by-pass which accounted for about 13 per cent of power sold out, in addition to 12 per cent loss through what he termed “technical losses”.
The MD said the ECG had put in place measures to collect all its debts but he was quick to add that even if all its debtors paid their debt, the amount would not be enough to solve the existing financial problem.

UNICEF to reduce risk associated with pregnancy (Mirror)

February 6, 2010

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to maternal health as the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill health and even death.
According to health experts, the major direct causes of maternal deaths are haemorrhage, infection, obstructed labour, hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, and complications of unsafe abortion.
Each year, according to the WHO, more than 500,000 women die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, even though the means exists to save the vast majority.
For its part, the United Nations Children and Education Fund (UNICEF) indicates that globally, one woman dies from complications in childbirth in every minute. That means that about 529,000 of them die each year and the vast majority of the deaths occur in the developing countries including Ghana.
The report went further to state that a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a one in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to a one in 4,000 risk in a developing country – the largest difference between poor and rich countries of any health indicator.
To find a solution to this problem, many global declarations and resolutions have taken place over the years. One of such events was when in September 2001, 147 heads of states collectively endorsed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) four and five whose objective is to reduce child mortality rate by two thirds and maternal mortality ratio by 3/4 by 2015.
Strongly linked to these is Goal six which is to halt or begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases which, to a large extent, also affect women.
As has already been mentioned, the major direct causes of maternal deaths are haemorrhage, infection, obstructed labour, hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, and complications of unsafe abortion. There are also birth-related disabilities that affect many more women and go untreated like injuries to pelvic muscles, organs or the spinal cord.
It is also known that at least, 20 per cent of the burden of disease in children below the age of five is related to poor maternal health and nutrition, as well as quality of care at delivery and during the new-born period.
The report from the UNICEF pointed out that yearly eight million babies died before or during delivery or in the first week of life. Further, many children were tragically left motherless each year, adding that these children were 10 times more likely to die within two years of their mothers' death.
Another risk to expectant women, according to UNICEF, is malaria, which can lead to anaemia, which increases the risk for maternal and infant mortality and developmental problems for babies. Nutritional deficiencies is said to also contribute to low birth weight and birth defects as well.
Looking at HIV infection, it has come out that it is an increasing threat because of the fact that mother-to-child transmission of HIV in low-resource settings, especially in those countries where infection in adults is continuing to grow or has stabilised at very high levels, continues to be a major problem, with up to 45 per cent of HIV-infected mothers transmitting infection to their children.
Many studies have revealed that majority of these deaths and disabilities are preventable, being mainly due to insufficient care during pregnancy and delivery. About 15 per cent of pregnancies and childbirth’s need emergency obstetric care because of complications that are difficult to predict.
It is why it is important to know that access to skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth and the first month after delivery is key to saving these women's lives – and those of their children.
To help in that direction UNICEF is said to be responding to the needs of mothers and their children by helping improve emergency obstetric care, since it has come out that almost half of births in developing countries take place without a skilled birth attendant.
Research shows the single most important intervention for safe motherhood is to make sure that a trained provider with midwifery skills is present at every birth; that transport is available to referral services; and that quality emergency obstetric care is available.
To achieve the desired objective, UNICEF is working with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), WHO and other partners in countries with high maternal mortality which included Ghana in a well-defined supporting role as part of an emerging global partnership for maternal, new-born and child health.
In addition, UNICEF also helps by working with policy makers to ensure that emergency obstetric care is a priority in national health plans, including Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and Sector-Wide Approaches (SWAps), as well as assists its partners and governments with assessments, training and logistics.
With advocacy, technical help and funding, UNICEF helps local communities provide information to women and their families on signs of pregnancy complications, on birth spacing, timing and limiting for nutrition and health, and on improving the nutritional status of pregnant women to prevent low birth weight or other problems.
A comprehensive community programme also promotes and helps provide anti-malarial therapy and insecticide-treated bed nets.
Tetanus, a bacterial disease that’s a result of unhygienic and unsafe childbirth delivery practices, killed 200,000 new-borns and 30,000 mothers in 2001 alone. Along with buying and helping provide tetanus immunisations for pregnant women, UNICEF provides micro-nutrients to stave off anaemia and birth defects – all of which lead to healthier mothers and babies.
Another area the UN body is looking at is helping countries to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. From 1998, UNICEF on behalf of other UN partners has been providing country support for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programmes within existing maternal and child services in resource-poor settings. This includes advocacy on distributing ARVs to young women and parents with HIV/AIDS as part of UNICEF's support of what it terms the “3 by 5 Initiative” programme with the WHO, which aimed to ensure that three million people have access to anti-retroviral treatment by the end of 2005.
Services may also include voluntary and confidential counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS. If an expectant mother has the virus or AIDS, she is counselled on how to help prevent transmitting the disease to her child, including safer breastfeeding practices.
Again, UNICEF’s priority also benefits maternal and infant health – particularly education for girls, since it is a fact that educating girls for six years or more drastically and consistently improves their prenatal and postnatal care and childbirth survival rates. Educating mothers also greatly cuts the death rate of children under five. Educated girls have higher self-esteem, are more likely to avoid HIV infection, violence and exploitation, and to spread good health and sanitation practices to their families and throughout their communities.
According to the UNICEF, an educated mother is more likely to send her children to school, which could help break the cycle of poverty and reduce high maternal and infant mortality.

Excessive use of alcohol causes cancer

Sat. February 6, 2010
EXCESSIVE alcohol use has been identified as being responsible for various cancers, including oral, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectal and breast.
As the country joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Cancer Day which fell yesterday, the Ghana Health Service (GHS), advised Ghanaians to limit alcohol intake to reduce the risk of developing any of those cancers.
The advice was contained in a statement released by the GHS in Accra as part of the World Cancer Day event. The theme for the day was, “Cancer can be prevented too” and it focused on simple measures to prevent the disease, such as no tobacco use, a healthy diet and regular exercise, limited alcohol use and protection against cancer-causing infections.
A statement signed by the National Cancer Control Focal Person at the Disease Control and Prevention Department of the GHS, Dr Kofi Mensah Nyarko, said the major cancers in Ghana were breast, cervical, prostate, liver, stomach, blood cancers and childhood cancers.
It pointed out that an increasing number of young people were now developing cancers.
Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in any part of the body. It mostly leads to death if not seen early and treated. Some of the early warning signs, according to the statement, were lumps and swellings, ulcers that failed to heal, abnormal bleeding, persistent indigestion and chronic hoarseness of voice.
It indicated that each year more than 12 million people received a cancer diagnosis and 7.6 million died of the disease,
noting that figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that world-wide 84 million people would die of cancer between 2005 and 2015 without intervention.
Cancer, according to the world body, constituted about 12 per cent of all deaths world-wide and in developing countries it was among the three leading causes of death in adults.
The statement said for many, being told they had cancer created immediate fear from sudden death, adding that there were many myths and misconceptions about cancers which sometimes caused late reporting and prevented the use of health care services, including early treatment.
“The good news is that approximately 40 per cent of cancers are potentially preventable. Another 30 per cent of patients will have complete recovery if the cancer is detected early by various simple screening methods or tests. There is also hope for patients who are diagnosed late, as there are various types of treatment, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery, hormonal therapy or a combination of these,” it pointed out.
It went further to state that appropriate therapy and an efficient communication campaign could result in a significant decrease in the morbidity and prevalence of bilharzia and thus reduce the burden of bladder cancer.
This year's campaign, according to the GHS, was aimed at raising awareness of the fact that the risk of developing cancer could potentially be reduced by 40 per cent through simple lifestyle changes and other control measures, such as vaccination, regular physical activity, eating healthily, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

ENERGY CRISES LOOMS - As VRA crawls on dwindling income (Front Page)

GHANA’S capacity to generate energy for industrial, commercial and domestic use is in serious crisis because of the failure of mining companies, industries, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to pay the huge sums of money they owe the Volta River Authority (VRA).
Furthermore, the VRA claims that it is compelled to sell power cheaper than the production cost, as a result of which what it obtains from loyal customers who pay its bills regularly is not enough to sustain its operations, a situation that has plunged the authority into a critical financial position.
Figures available to the Daily Graphic put the current debt owed by MDAs to the VRA at GH¢90 million, while some mining companies also owe the authority more than GH¢15 million.
Some of the companies, described as “distressed mining companies”, are Dunkwa Continental, the Ghana Consolidated Mining Company at Akwatia and the Prestea Gold Resource.
As the big consumers and government agencies appear reluctant to meet their debt obligations, the VRA is pushing for higher tariffs to enable it to raise the needed revenue for the sustenance of its operations.
Alternatively, it says it will require extra funding from the government for the sustenance of its operations and to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
The Head of Public Relations at the VRA, Mrs Gertrude Koomson, put VRA’s loss at 50 per cent of its production cost and listed inflation and increases in crude oil prices as other factors contributing to the huge losses.
“The authority is in financial distress which needs an urgent solution to enable it to continue to generate power,” she lamented.
“As things stand at the moment, there is no way the authority can continue to effectively serve the nation, since its revenues are not covering the cost of production,” she added.
She pointed out that the authority spent between $30 million and $40 million a month to procure crude oil but failed to generate enough revenue to pay for the oil.
Mrs Koomson said the last time the authority was allowed to increase tariffs to 6Gp per one unit of electric power was in November 2007, adding that the production cost of one unit had currently depreciated by 50 per cent.
She said currently the authority had huge monthly bills which were becoming difficult to pay, adding that it had to rely on banks for letters of credit (LCs) to enable it to purchase crude oil.
She said those bills were as result of the continuous rising cost of crude oil which the authority used in running the thermal plants at Aboadze and Tema, which constituted 40 per cent of the nation’s power supply.
She explained that when the old tariffs were fixed in November 2007, there was the understanding that Ghana would receive natural gas, which was cheaper, to run the plants, but added that gas had up till today not arrived in the country from Nigeria, thereby forcing the VRA to use crude oil.
She said the 2007 tariffs were out of date, since inflation had gone up and the cedi had also depreciated against the dollar over the years.
Mrs Koomson said the VRA believed that the time had come for the public to start paying the right price for electricity and went further to state that the authority had presented a proposal to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURC) and was awaiting its response.
She observed that if the right price was not paid today to meet the cost of production, consumers might be compelled to pay much higher prices in future; that was, if the system did not collapse completely.
“Right prices provide for adequate maintenance of a system that has been under-invested in for many, many years,” she stressed.
She said paying the right price could also encourage private investors to come into the energy industry, as was being done elsewhere.
The public relations officer cautioned the country not to behave like Nigeria where there was plenty of oil and gas but there was no electricity because people were not paying the right tariffs.

NHIA needs more public support-Mensah

THE National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has called for public support in its operations to ensure that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) introduced to provide equitable health care for the people is sustained.
It said without preventing others from scrutinising the activities of the authority, it would serve a good cause if efforts were made to get to the right information for public consumption.
The call was made by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NHIA, Mr Sylvester Mensah, at press conference organised by the authority to react to some media reports on the operations of the scheme.
An Accra-based newspaper has, since January 26, 2010, come out with a series of allegations against the NHIA. Among them are allegations of reckless use of public funds to purchase vehicles, a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by the CEO and other officials and the hiring of a duty post accommodation for the CEO.
Mr Mensah said it would have been better if the paper had found it necessary to get his side of the story before going public, adding that nothing had been done without the approval of the NHIA board.
He stressed that the process for getting many of the things that the paper accused him of began before he assumed office.
He gave the assurance that the NHIA would ensure that the right things were done to protect the taxpayer’s money and stressed that the authority was working hard to reduce its budget for the year.
He said the authority had uncovered some serious leakage in the operations of some of the schemes through some clinical auditing it had embarked on and stressed that all bad nuts in the system would be exposed and dealt with according to the law.
In a statement which was read earlier, the acting Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Mr Eric Ametor-Quarmyne, said all the 145 schemes in the country had started recording tremendous changes in both their operational and financial management.
He explained the circumstances under which a number of vehicles had been purchased for use by officials of both the NHIA and the various schemes, adding that the arrangement had rather relieved the authority of a huge financial burden, compared to the general practice in the civil and public services.
Mr Ametor-Quarmyne touched on the trip to the UAE by the CEO of the NHIA and other high-ranking public officials, including Members of Parliament, NHIA board members and officials of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), and said the delegation had attended an important international health conference which would benefit the country.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Health status and link with access to health service

The 2008 Ghana Demographic and Health survey (GDHS) shows that out of every 100 children born alive, four die before they are one year old.
That statistics, compared to the situation in the developed world where only one child die out of every 100 children born alive, is said to be on the high side.
However, the Greater Accra Regional Director of Health Services, Professor Irene Agyepong Amarteyfio, has indicated that this is an improvement on the rates of about six deaths out of every 100 in 2003 and seven every 100 in 1993 as depicted in various surveys.
Writing under the topic, “Health status and health service access”, which was contained in a document presented to the Daily Graphic, Professor Agyepong Amarteyfio, however, explained that “we are still a long way from where we want to be”.
She said unlike in Ghana where about four children died before they attained one year, less than one child died before the first year of life for every 100 children born alive in the developed world.
She reiterated that malaria remained the most frequently reported cause of illness and a major cause of childhood deaths. She pointed out that other frequently reported diseases which affected Ghanaians were diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, skin diseases, pregnancy-related complications, anaemia and malnutrition.
In addition, she said the most common chronic diseases in Ghana were hypertension and diabetes and pointed out that one of the objectives of Ghana’s health sector reforms initiated in 1997 was to increase geographical access to basic clinical and public health services.
Touching on access to health care, she said in the 2003 Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire (CWIQ) survey, access to clinical services was defined as living within any kind of modern health facility that could be reached within 30 minutes.
She stated that between the 1997 and 2003 CWIQ survey, the percentage of people stating that they had access to a health facility increased from 37 per cent to 58 per cent, while those reporting themselves as sick or injured in the four weeks before the survey and needing clinical services remained constant at 18 per cent.
Professor Agyepong Amarteyfio indicated that the reported use of care fell from 22 per cent in the 1997 survey to 18 per cent in the 2003 survey, raising questions as to whether quality of care and ability to pay may sometimes be more important barriers than geographic access.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Check reckless use of the title Dr

THE Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has expressed concern over the reckless use of the title “Dr” by some individuals who make dubious claims through medical and drug advertisements.
The association has, therefore, called on the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Medical and Dental Council (MDC), the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) and the National Media Commission (NMC) to work together to enforce laws regulating the use of the title and also ban the unregulated advertisement of medicines and drugs in the print and the electronic media.
At its National Executive Council meeting held in Takoradi from January 29 to 31, 2010, the GMA President, Dr Emmanuel Adom A. Winful, said the practice was causing grave health problems and must be stopped.
He called on the general public to be alert and mindful of some of the false claims contained in some of those advertisements and not fall victim to them.
Dr Winful said the problems emanated from the use of the title and the advertisements which some members of the public usually fell victim to.
He also called on the media to save the country by making sure that the kind of information passing through their mode of transmission would serve the interest of the public.
Some of the advertisements, according to the GMA President, were just to satisfy the profit motive of whoever put them out, not the interest of the public, as the claims were false and dubious.
He pointed out that the GMA acknowledged the fact that the title “Dr” could be used in the field of academia, not for herbalists to become medical doctors just because they had put some herbs together to cure diseases.
“If one uses herbs to cure an ailment, it is fine with the GMA. That person qualifies as a herbalist but not a medical doctor,” he stressed.
He said to be a doctor, one had to go through the requisite training and certification and be properly inducted.
He said it was worrying for people providing herbal service to call themselves “Dr”, adding that the practice was misleading and unacceptable.
In a statement issued after the NEC meeting, the GMA touched on the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP), saying that it endorsed the decision of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission to roll out a public education programme to serve as a means to facilitate the implementation of the policy.
“There is generally limited public education with regard to the SSPP, as a result of which much of the public discourse exposes serious misconceptions and sometimes unrealistic expectations about the SSPP,” the GMA stressed.
The association touched on gross distortions in the existing relativities in the health sector in the draft consultant’s document on the SSPP which it said had been acknowledged by both the MoH and the Fair Wages Commission and, therefore, needed to be corrected before its implementation.
In addition, the GMA reminded the MoH that it was more than a year since an agreement was signed between the ministry and the association in which the ministry agreed to pay 10 per cent on Call Duty Facilitation Allowance to medical practitioners but the agreement was yet to be fulfilled.
The association, therefore, called on the MoH to provide the Ministry of Finance with all the needed data, as a matter of urgency, to avoid further delay in the implementation of the agreement.
In the statement, the GMA complained about the undue delay in the reconstitution of the dissolved Medical and Dental Council (MDC) and called on the government to reconstitute and inaugurate a new council as soon as possible.

Burial of Dan Lartey on Feb 6.

The burial service of the late Dan Lartey will be held at the Forecourt of the State House in Accra, in the morning of Saturday, February 6, 2010.
The mortal remains of the veteran politician would be interned at the Osu Cemetery, after which the public will have the opportunity to mourn with the bereaved family in their house at Osu, near Photo flash, behind papaye fast food.
Briefing the Daily Graphic at the weekend the eldest son of the deceased, Mr Henry Lartey, said the government had offered to sponsor the burial and funeral rites of the departed statesman.
He said to organise a befitting ceremony for the late elderly politician, the bereaved family and officials of the state protocol department had begun discussions on how best to get things done.
Mr Lartey said as part of the rites, there would be wake on Friday at the deceased’s Citadel House, around first light at Kaneshie.
He added that on Sunday, February 7, 2010, a thanksgiving service would be held in memory of the late Mr Lartey at the Osu Barnabas Anglican Church, where Mr Lartey used to worship.
The businessman and politician passed away in his sleep at the age of 83, on Monday, December 28, 2009. He left behind an 87-year-old wife, Sarah, and eight children, comprising five men and three women.
A former publisher and labour unionist, Dan Lartey’s name became a household one following his 2004 mantra of “Domestication”, his political philosophy of self- reliance, rather than depending on foreign aid and investment.
After his death was announced, hundreds of Ghanaians drove to his home to console his family. Among them were former President Jerry John Rawlings and his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, the 2008 presidential candidate of the National Patriotic Party(NPP), Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo, the Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina Woode.
Others were the Chairman and General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr Kwabena Adjei and Mr Johnson Aseidu Nketia respectively, the Chairman of the NPP, Mr Peter Mac- Manu, the 2008 presidential candidate of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom and his running mate, Dr Abu Sakara, Dr Obed Asamoah, the founder of the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) and the Archbishop of the Church of Province of West Africa and the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Accra, Most Rev Doc Justice Akrofi, and other distinguished personalities.

Ghana listed for H1N1 vaccine (Spread)

Monday, Feb. 1, 2010
GHANA has been listed as one of the countries selected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to receive the H1N1 vaccine.
The first batch of 500,000 doses of the vaccine is expected to be released within the first quarter of this year, to health workers and the security agencies.
Under the programme, the WHO head office in Geneva will provide vaccines and devices to the tune of $3.8 million while the Government of Ghana is expected to mobilise a little over $1 million with the assistance from its health partners.
A budget of $4,820,408 is to cover activities during the first phase of the programme.
This was made known by the acting Head of Disease Surveillance of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Mr Michael Adjabeng, at a media/information officers workshop on Pandemic Influenza Communication in Accra last Friday.
Mr Adjabeng said priority would be given to health workers and national security personnel because they were usually the ones who got into contact with infected people if there was an outbreak.
He said there would be press briefings on the pandemic influenza vaccination programme at the appropriate time, adding that health workers would be informed through the administrative heads of various institutions and the security personnel through their administrative set-ups.
Mr Adjabeng said apart from health workers and the security personnel, other groups of people who would be taken care of were pregnant women and other high risk people who would be informed through the local media, antenatal clinics and at religious meetings.
“Special messages on the pandemic influenza, the place and time for the vaccination will be designed for the media,” Mr Adjabeng stressed.
He said between November 23 and November 27, 2009 a workshop was organised by WHO on plans to deploy the vaccines for Anglophone countries where member states were made to produce draft plans.
On the spread of the H1N1 in Ghana, Mr Adjabeng said 55 (5.6 per cent) cases had been confirmed out of 979 samples investigated from August 5, 2009 to January 14, 2010 with no death so far recorded.
He said the Central, Volta, Upper East and Brong Ahafo regions were yet to report any cases.
The Deputy Chief Disaster Control Officer of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), Ms Ruth Arthur, said guided by experience in 2005 when the Avian Influenza outbreak occurred, the Avian Influenza Working Group, (AIWG), a technical and multi-sectoral committee, became the National Technical Co-ordinating Committee.
Ms Arthur, who was speaking on National Preparedness/Societal Response to H1N1 influenza in Ghana, said the technical committee had a mandate to “plan and execute” technical preparedness and response actions for the pandemic.
Ms Arthur, who is also the Desk Officer for Disease and Epidemic Disasters, called for national awareness on what had to be done to prevent the spread of the pandemic, since in the absence of early and effective planning, Ghana could face wider social and economic disruption due to high rate of absenteeism caused by a major outbreak with consequent financial implications.
She said that could bring about closure of schools, as well as workplaces, prohibition of mass gatherings such as sporting events, religious services and other social events.
Other challenges which include market closures, disruption in the provision of essential public services such as food/water/energy, public transport, air travel, banking and telecommunications services could break down due to high rate of infection among employees.
An official of the Health Promotion Unit of the GHS, Alhaji Abubakar Sufyan, urged the media to support the health sector in sensitising the public to the H1N1.
He said the media were also to help win support of policy makers for the control of the pandemic and also place issues of the pandemic high on the public agenda.