This topic is quite sensitive, because when an emergency occurs, everybody turns to the government, as if the government is solely responsible for every problem that crops up in a country.
We must realize that when Ghana has a problem, Ghanaians will have to solve it. The government is the head administrator for sure, but the individuals should be able to come together to assist the government to solve problems that affect all Ghanaians especially when it may even be beyond the government’s capabilities. We must as of today March 19, 2020 commend the President for all his efforts and today’s BREAKFAST PRAYER MEETING OF ALL KEY CHURCH LEADERS at JUBILEE HOUSE. THIS IS KEY.
This article attempts to come up with suggestions that may, hopefully, be useful NOW or the FUTURE of Ghana. Hopefully, we shall attempt to play it safe for the present and future generations. We should be prepared now. No room for complacency. We shouldn’t wait till the virus is fully upon us before we start looking for isolation hospital wards, or centers, masks, hand gloves, PERSONAL PROTECTION EQUIPMENTS(PPE) for our doctors and nurses; Emergency outfit/equipments-especially VENTILATORS.
If we are NOW EXTREMELY LUCKY that we, in Ghana, do not degenerate to the levels of other countries, do we know the FUTURE occurrence of CORONA VIRUS or other virus? FUTURE can be in months, next year or whatever! If necessary action is not taken now and this virus rears its ugly head in Ghana we’ll die like insecticide sprayed cockroaches.
1. GOD, GHANA, AND THE WORLD
Let us not underestimate the corona virus problem. Even America is found wanting today as to how to tackle the problem, and how to find solutions. They are arguing about where people should be even medical equipments that should be used to tackle these problems. They don’t have them (equipments) in abundance.
We are faced with this medical emergency and we have to survive it. It calls for division of labour; it calls for understanding of the problem, the approach, and the direction on how we can solve and who we use to solve these problems. It is a collective effort, not the government’s own effort. It shouldn’t be a partisan approach; it should be a national effort. Judging from what China, Italy, and America have gone through, we are very very lucky, God loves Ghana.
2. PUBLIC EDUCATION
I would like to touch on PUBLIC EDUCATION. The government has started identifying the problem, telling what people must do and not do. We need to know the direction we must take. We need to be constantly updated to avoid panic and we need to know the area and directions we are going. How do we welcome new ideas/ suggestions? How does the government assemble these ideas and suggestions and know the capable people in our system that can help us. Now we need the short term solutions. What are our medium and long term solutions to fight future infectious diseases? How do we sustain our efforts for the future?
3. DECENTRALIZED GOVERNMENT ACTIONS
The government has to set up the DECENTRALIZED GOVERNMENT ACTIONS to regions and districts and with specific instructions actions and expectations from our district, and municipal heads. The government must set up a special multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral national committee on medical emergencies disasters. It should be non-partisan and should be set up to accommodate specialist volunteers, philanthropists, donors (big and small), corporate bodies with social responsibilities, churches: some of which are very rich, and semi- rich. This concerns the people that the churches have been handling and therefore the churches should play a very major role. Some embassies abroad through the Minister of Foreign Affairs should also be engaged. We need to know the definite actions of local government, Ministry of Agriculture, Finance, Health and so on.
4. HELPING OURSELVES FOR GOD TO HELP US
We must know the level of disaster that has befallen this world within the last 12 months including the fires, hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes and now an international medical disaster of corona virus. Is this the end of it? Are we going to have other disasters? We must turn to God and pray hard around the clock. This world belongs to Him, not us, not our leaders. This is God’s world and I hope we are learning something from this.
We cannot adequately fight such medical challenges when we do not have the medical clothing for our nurses and doctors. Where are the PPEs? Yes we should not panic, but we should be ready and do the small basic things. Supposing somebody is identified as having corona virus who takes care of them? Are the medical teams properly clothed to take care of them? Into which hospitals do we put them? Which buildings can we convert- what public buildings? Isolation wards, ICU beds, ventilators? We are in very short supply in this country, not during this government’s term but from previous governments as well. We are not blaming anybody but we must take the opportunity to amass enough experience during this period and when the disaster is over, we must always be ready before another disaster hits.
5. NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY
We need a comprehensive NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY PROGRAMME. When populations have to be quarantined, isolated, etc how will the country cope with minimal food production or its availability? Food spoilage or shortage is all part of national security problem. How do we produce, stock, preserve our food? What has the Ministry of Agriculture and others done so far? I’m sure they have done a lot in the identification of warehouses and all that. What stages are we in, what kind of help do they need. What are their plans to combat shortages when our neighbours also find themselves in emergency situations? We must think of ourselves as being indoors, God forbid. But let’s just project the isolation for 2 months. Even our own farmers that grow short term crops may be afraid to go on the farms to grow on the massive scale, or a relatively small scale. They may farm for themselves.
The small communities may probably do that rather than farming on enlarged scale so that we can buy surpluses and stock them properly for districts, regions and the nation? This should be a national lesson for us so that we work seriously with our buffer stock, or our stocked foods for emergencies available and synchronize their activities with normal food supplies we are used to on the national open market. We must be open and transparent with our efforts to solve our food problems.
6. HOSPITAL BEDS AND SUPPLIES
How do we for instance get the local carpenters’ beds bought on a massive scale across the country with mattresses and give to hospitals that are already hurting? Some big hospitals and clinics have people (women), giving child birth and sleeping on the floor with their babies. It exists now in this country and it has been existing for years long before this government came in 2017. This is a disaster period we must use the lesson learnt to correct the wrong things, to set our priorities right.
7. MEDICAL RESEARCH AND FOOD SECURITY
We do have a lot of useful herbs, leaves, trees and roots that we can use for our research. We have had people who have come up with local herb treatments for various ailments. We may have institutions that are helping with working with local herbalists and all that. How do we identify the groups, assist them and intensify their efforts and make them legitimate, functional and effective so that their end products can be useful to us. Right now every country is going to depend on its own food and drugs production for sometime especially with medical disaster period like now. With future occurrences, we must develop the “selfish” but survival attitude of Each (country) for itself and God for us all. We can educate, strategize and “force” people, mostly to eat what we grow and we will be encouraged to grow what we shall eat so that we can intensify this towards a national policy. Local rice, gari, vegetables, corn, beans etc and fruits are all very basic to us.
We must identify, encourage and choose special farmers, and assist them technically and financially so that, they can produce mainly for national food security. This way, we don’t have to go to the market and buy off foods that are going to be consumed by the general public in order to stock our special warehouses. Then we can have the managers of these special national security warehouses release some of the food stuff to stabilize our national needs in times of food shortage to make prices come down whiles bringing in new stocks for storage.
In our medical research we need that illiterate herbalist that claims to have this and that, do we have intensive programs to make sure we can isolate these people and make them very useful to the nation? I am bringing these ideas out not because I know it all. I don’t. The little I do is what I am bringing out to help generate discussions leading to the appropriate actions. But topmost of the level I know best is God. I know God can deliver us if we pray hard and leave most of our problems in His hands, and we must do what is right. God help us.
By: Dr. Amoako Tuffour