Coronavirus arrived late in Africa but Ghana is now one of the worst-affected countries on the continent. Lives are at stake: this is not the time for name-calling or acrimonious partisanship. In order to successfully suppress this pandemic, we need to unite as a nation. We need to eschew partisanship that breeds division and work together.
Our government’s containment measures, while necessary, have led to many job losses. Even though the lockdown has been lifted, the economic toll will continue as the consumption of goods and services declines and employees are forced to take salary cuts.
On the health front, it appears our healthcare system has not been pushed to its limit yet. However, we must take concerns about the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers and the limited number of ventilators seriously. Understandably resources are concentrated in our cities, but all our regions need preparedness plans. In my own Western region, for example, there is not a single ventilator available should a patient go into respiratory distress. Stating this is not playing politics. It is a reality that deserves urgent attention. Spending time debating which political party is responsible for this situation will not save any more lives and wastes valuable time that could be spent on preparation.
To address the shortage of PPEs and ventilators while keeping costs low, local manufacturing companies must be supported to produce standard protective kits. Engineering students at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) have developed low-cost automated respirators, for example. The government must provide financial support for this and other similar projects to succeed at scale.
Most critically, our focus should be on ensuring all citizens are well-educated on public health. We need to resource the relevant state institutions to intensify public education about COVID-19, particularly in under-resourced communities where access to sanitation may be limited. Only one out of every five Ghanaian households have water or other cleansing agents available at home. In order to ensure communities receive necessary education and goods, the government must work closely with trusted traditional and religious leaders and grassroots NGOs who have the knowledge and expertise in their communities.
As a Parliamentary Candidate for the Essikado-Ketan Constituency, for example, I have partnered with local groups to implement education programs and donate soap, hand sanitizer and PPE at clinics across the Western region.
The fight against COVID-19 is the shared responsibility of the government and all stakeholders regardless of party affiliation. Let us all work together to avoid the risk of further prolonging this pandemic.
The writer, Grace Ayensu-Danquah, MD, MPH, FACS, is the NDC Parliamentary Candidate for the Essikado-Ketan Constituency and a member of the NDC COVID-19 Technical Team.