Use Ebola Outbreak To Build Better Public Health System - Africa Urged

The Ebola crisis of 2014–16 mobilized unprecedented financial assistance for West Africa to strengthen outbreak surveillance to prevent another crisis. The region has developed an ambitious blueprint over the last two years, but the effort has now reached a tipping point for success.  Careful and transparent transition planning and sensitivity to the unique diversity of the region will be key to realizing the potential and offering an excellent model for Africa in the future.
Image - Health workers carrying an Ebola patient
Health workers carrying an Ebola patient
The West African region is recognized by the global public health community as being particularly vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks, including those caused by diseases that jump the species barrier from animals. This is critically important both to the region and rest of the world. The challenge in the wake of Ebola has been to ‘build back better’, that is not only to replace the frail systems that failed the community in the past but to reinforce them to assure the health security of the population for the years to come.

Both financial resources and political will were abundant immediately after the Ebola crisis. Among the extensive international funding, the World Bank made a notable contribution of more than $400 million to improve infectious disease surveillance. This funding is dedicated to enhancing surveillance in the region to improve detection, alert and response to outbreaks in the 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The money is unique in that it is directed only towards building public health surveillance systems and not the usual disease-focused approach. It is brokered through the health arm of ECOWAS — the West African Health Organization (WAHO).

During extensive consultations across the region, led by the WAHO, an ambitious blueprint evolved. Each country with a national coordinating institute is to share surveillance data systematically with a regional hub. All 15 countries are to be networked into a Regional Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control (RCDC), located in Abuja, Nigeria. The countries, in turn, are to benefit from enhanced resources in data analysis, laboratory services, rapid response and disease investigation and ‘One Health’ expertise from the RCDC. This regional center is part of a pan-African system of five centers linked to the African Union Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. West Africa currently provides the most advanced of these centers.

Prospects for long-term success

As global attention on West Africa wanes, this effort is reaching a tipping point. National governments must move quickly to designate and empower their coordinating institutes, but at the last report, just nine of the 15 countries had designated their national coordinating institute.
At the core of the vision is the new RCDC. The plan is for it to be fully staffed in early 2018. However, the management challenge in the context of West Africa is complex and should not be underestimated. For example, donor agencies often have their own agendas, some favoring approaches that are not entirely aligned with the overall regional planning by WAHO. In addition, within WAHO each line of work tends to be carried as an independent brief. Therefore, integration under the RCDC by the end of this year presents a serious challenge.

Consultations over the past two years have invited extensive country input into the planning process. This has helpfully produced a plan tailored to the culture and national interests of West Africa — one of the most diverse regions in the world. Informal disease surveillance networks from around the world have been included in discussions. It is now time to move from words to action.

Beginning construction

In November, Chatham House partnered with the RCDC to convene a roundtable in Abuja on information and material sharing. The immediate nature of the challenge of operationalizing the network was a key driver of these discussions. Participants from across the region were eager for more transparency in the process and strongly advocated the inclusion of informal as well as formal networks to ensure success and sustainability. This informal participation, including regular communication using both technology and physical meetings, is essential to building trust.

Challenges are legion, but the approach is feasible. However, careful and transparent transition planning on the part of WAHO and its national and regional partners will be important, and complex management of this kind has not historically been a particular strength of WAHO. Above all, sensitivity to the unique diversity of the region will be vital.

The opportunity to build a system that protects a very vulnerable part of the world from threats such as that posed by the 2014–16 Ebola crisis must be seized. Success would provide an excellent model for Africa in the future. The coming months will define whether it arrives.

'Galamsey': Trading Life For A Quid

Water is life because the human body consists of about 70% water. It must, however, be known that not any water is life. It is only clean and safe water that can give life. Polluted water does the opposite. Polluted water is not just water that looks physically dirty. It is also water that may contain strong chemicals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, DDT, cyanide and other chemicals substances that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Illegal miners use some of these chemicals in their activities without proper regulations. These minerals eventually get washed into and pollute water bodies.
Some (if not all) of these overzealous money scavengers lack knowledge of the dangers associated with these chemicals of the trade.
Image - Illegal miners in Ghana
Illegal mining is popularly called 'galamsey' in Ghana. Image Courtesy: Citifmonline
We complain about the destruction of water bodies due to 'galamsey' activities. We blame Chinese nationals for coming to destroy our environment with heavy-duty equipment. We threaten to deport them but, after their government intervenes with a loan facility, we allow them to continue and pretend we are working on it.

My question is, where do the Chinese nationals pass to enter into our country with their heavy-duty machines? How did they get access to the land? How come, without any exploratory work, they are able to identify our mineral deposits right away?


If we are serious about fighting illegal mining, why did we make it acceptable for Ghanaians? Don't Ghanaian nationals use cyanide and mercury in mining? It is no wonder we are still struggling very hard to bring the 'galamsey' menace under control.

We have 'Special Forces' who only show up on independence day to partake in march pasts. I am wondering what we keep the so-called 'Special Forces' for while we have a threat to life at hand. Remember, water and life are inextricably linked. A threat to quality water is a threat to life. The 'galamsey' menace is more dangerous than terrorism. It has the potential of automatically shutting down everything.

So, congrats to the Akufo-Addo government for deciding to crack the whip on this menace which threatens our very existence. We hope the verve with which this anti-galamsey agenda was pursued would be sustained.

We Came To Ghana To Beg . . . Say Mali, Niger, Chad, Nigeria Migrants

Some African migrants have told The Chronicle that the hospitality of Ghanaians had brought them into the country to beg for alms on the streets.

These migrants, who The Chronicle interacted with at different locations at the Nima, a suburb of Accra, said they are from Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Mali, and according to them, they came by foot, whilst others said they came by road.
Image - Immigrant beggars in Ghana
The beggars, who pleaded to speak on condition of anonymity, said begging for alms is a ‘profession’ they had adopted to survive in the country and to take care of their children back home in their respective countries.

An 80-year-old street beggar, who said she is from Zaria, in Northern Nigeria said she came to Ghana by foot, however, she could not recollect the number of days she spent walking from Zaria to Ghana.

She confidently indicated that begging for alms is what she had lived on since arriving in the country at a youthful age. The Zaria native said she was a divorcee.

According to her, her children had abandoned her because their father poisoned their minds against her.
In this regard, she said she would rather die and be buried in Ghana than going back to her homeland, where she would hardly have something to eat.

“I am not ready to go home because I have no one to take care of me. Here in Ghana, I have a lot of companions around me who are also beggars. So, I am more comfortable here,” she said.

A Nigerian beggar, with a calabash in his hand, also approached the reporters to beg for alms.

According to him, God had destined him to beg for alms to provide for himself and his family.

Speaking in pidgin English, he said: “My sister, give me GH10 and God will bless you.”

After collecting the money, he became furious when these reporters asked him how he arrived in Ghana.

Shop owners around the beggars' location told The Chronicle that the beggars are really making a great deal as much GH50 or more daily.

One of the shop owners said the beggars come in batches, and after making enough money, they convert the amount into CFA, then leave for their country.

“You would be shocked the amount of money these beggars carry on them. Sometimes, the coins alone they bring to us to change for them is a lot,” the shop owner said.

According to the shop owner, the beggars, because of their old age, send their children or other family members to continue the trade on a commission basis when they leave the country.

The shop owner added that some of the beggars chase and embarrass drivers, especially saloon car drivers for money.

The Imam of Kaldof Mosque at Nima, Abdul Rahman Abdullah told The Chronicle that Islam frowns against the practice where Moslems force people for charity.

Imam Abdul Rahman Abdullah said they had sacked the beggars from coming to the Mosque for alms because the Mosque was currently under construction.

However, he said, the beggars would not leave the area, saying their presence was causing a nuisance to the community.

Source: The Chronicle

Ghana Cocoa Board Warns Farmers Smuggling May Jeopardize Pay

Ghana’s cocoa regulator is warning farmers that the smuggling of beans from neighboring Ivory Coast may jeopardize efforts to keep producer payments unchanged despite a slump in prices.
The regulator in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest producer, expects that as much as 70,000 metric tons of the country’s crop will be smuggled across its borders by the time the season ends in September, a person familiar with the matter said July 5.
Image - Ghana Cocoa
Cocoa Beans From Ghana.
Ivory Coast cut farmers’ pay by 36 percent to the equivalent of about 700,000 CFA francs ($1,211) per ton in April to cope with prices that have fallen by more than a third in a year on forecasts of an oversupply. Ghana, the second-biggest grower, kept farmer payments at the equivalent of 7,600 cedis ($1,723) per ton since October and has ruled out any cuts for the next harvest.

“If farmers want to continue to enjoy the privilege of high prices even at such times, then we must stop all forms of smuggling,” said Johnson Mensah, a director of the Ghana Cocoa Board who also farms in the western town of Enchi, near the Ivorian border. “When we do that we enrich other people with our country’s money,” he said by phone.

Chief farmers in border towns with Ivory Coast have started campaigns to curb smuggling, Mensah said.
Cocoa futures rose 0.1 percent to 1,493 pounds ($1,937) at 1:14 p.m in London, paring this year’s losses to 14 percent. Ivory Coast’s cocoa regulator, Le Conseil du Cafe Cacao, forecasts its crop for the year through September to increase to 1.91 million tons, according to the person familiar, while Ghana expects its harvest to rise as much as 16 percent to 900,000 tons.

Source: Bloomberg

Ghana To Suffer Major Food Crisis By End Of Year - GAWU

In April 2017, about 1,400 hectares were attacked by the fall armyworms
Ghana should expect an acute shortage of food by the end of the year, this is according to the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU). The Union claims that the ongoing fall army worm invasion is not being tackled well by government.

Image - Maize
Maize is a popular food crop in northern Ghana.
So far, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has revealed that although about 20,000 hectares of farm yields have been affected by fall armyworms invasion, the infestation is under control but the General Secretary of GAWU, Edward Kariweh, has argued that the number of hectares of farm yields goes beyond what government is gathering.

According to him, checks by the Union reveal that close to 100,000 hectares of farm lands across the country have been badly affected by the invasion.


“There is no doubt in our minds that at the rate at which these worms are spreading, the rural zone Ghana would be faced with a severe food crisis by the end of the year,” he revealed to Joy Business.

GAWU is, therefore, calling on government to “ declare a state of emergency” on the invasion so as to make up for practical steps of tackling the development in the next three weeks.

In April 2017, about 1,400 hectares were attacked by the fall armyworms.

The Agriculture Minister, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto had said then that, “it is under control, we’ve seen them spraying and by the end of the week, all the farms affected would have been sprayed and that will be the end of it.”

Source: Myjoyonline

Use Ebola Outbreak To Build Better Public Health System - Africa Urged

The Ebola crisis of 2014–16 mobilized unprecedented financial assistance for West Africa to strengthen outbreak surveillance to prevent anot...