USAID In GhanaIn Ghana, despite poverty reduction efforts throughout the years, around 24.2% of the population lives below the poverty line due to a variety of issues: low literacy rates, disparities in agriculture and failing health. To help address these issues, USAID assists in 22 different issues or sectors, funds 136 activities and partners with 48 partners in Ghana, diligently providing financial assistance to accelerate the country’s trend of poverty reduction. 

Education

Education is one of the top five focuses of USAID in Ghana. This investment is critical because although Ghana reached a 100% primary school completion rate in 2020, many Ghanaian children reached the end of their primary education without basic literacy skills. For eight years and counting, the USAID Partnership for Education implements teacher-supported training for school officials, equipping them with tools to improve the quality of education. USAID also develops instructional materials that strike a balance between literacy in English and the 11 local languages spoken in Ghana. 

Since 2014, USAID has provided learning materials for Ghanaian schools including teacher guides, alphabet cards and more all in hopes of crafting a new engaging curriculum and improving literacy rates. Most recently, in August 2022, USAID partnered with Ghana’s Ministry of Education to provide 3.7 million books to over 11,000 schools across Ghana. USAID chose material specifically designed to deliver interactive reading lessons to students. All the books selected were written, illustrated, edited and designed by Ghanaians to maintain a sense of relevancy and relatability to capture the attention of the students reading the material.

Overall, USAID’s partnership with the Government of Ghana resulted in the training of over 70,000 teachers, benefitting 750,000 students in some 16,000 schools across the country.

Agricultural and Food Security

Despite being one of the fast-growing economies in the world, low agricultural productivity negatively impacts Ghana’s long-term growth prospects. In response, USAID has provided $425 million to support Ghanaian farmers over the span of 10 years. USAID intervenes mainly in northern Ghana by promoting the production of diverse crop groups, improving storage and crop preservation and partnering with private firms to expand businesses. 

Given ongoing global food security threats in 2022, USAID most recently provided emergency fertilizer assistance to smallholder farmers. The $2.5 million aid package ensures 100,000 smallholder farmers in Ghana have affordable fertilizer this planting season. In partnership with three other organizations, USAID delivered 360,000 bags of fertilizer, lifting the financial burden off the backs of these smallholder farmers who make up 70% of Ghanaian farmers. 

Health

Despite advancements in health, northern Ghana struggles with high malnutrition rates in children under 5 and higher rates of child mortality. In response, USAID launched a five-year $29 million partnership with Ghana Health Services with the goal of improving maternal and newborn health. Through this effort, USAID focuses on best practices to help reduce preventable deaths. These include “sleeping under a treated bed net, delivering babies at health facilities, encouraging breastfeeding,” and more.

In the Future

According to the World Bank, Ghana’s poverty rate slightly increased to 25.5% in 2020 from 25% in 2019, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, thanks to efforts by USAID and others, the goal is to aid as many vulnerable Ghanaians as possible to ensure prosperity for future generations.

Blanly Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems in Ghana
Around 12% of Ghana’s population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. For many Ghanaians, including those in poverty, food security is a pressing issue. Ghana, a country of more than 31 million people on Africa’s west coast, is currently in the midst of a food crisis. Food systems in Ghana have experienced strain due to recent global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine War, leading to supply chain and food system shortages.

The 2020 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis report for Ghana said that 63.8% of Ghanaians experienced a shock from COVID-19 that contributed to food insecurity. That same report concluded that in 2020, 11.7% of households in Ghana were food insecure.

War’s Impact

Despite occurring on a different continent, the war between Russia and Ukraine has had a devastating impact on Ghana. Agriculture is one of the pillars of Ghana’s economy, with half of the workforce being in the agriculture sector.

Food systems in Ghana are highly reliant on nitrogen fertilizer, which it has imported from Russia. Due to sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine, prices for Russian exports have skyrocketed and fertilizer was no exception. New York 1 reported that Ghana relies on Russia for one-fifth of its imports of fertilizer.

The Northern Development and Democratic Institute released a grim report with projections for the remainder of 2022. Ghana is likely to see an increase in hunger and a worsening food insecurity crisis in the final two quarters of the year, heading into 2023.

This problem is not unique to Ghana, though. Many countries are suffering the effects of supply chain issues and price hikes for fertilizer and other imports. In August 2022, the United States Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned of a worsening food insecurity crisis as an effect of the war in Ukraine.

“That would mean that more than 40 million people will have become food insecure since [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin chose to invade his neighbor and steal their land. That is more people than the entire population of Ghana,” said Thomas-Greenfield.

Looking Ahead

The future is not bleak for food systems in Ghana, though. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on August 5 that they are committing $2.5 million in aid to Ghana to alleviate the food crisis.

According to the press release, the aid money will go toward:

  • Developing new fertilizer products both organic and inorganic
  • Working with fertilizer companies and manufacturers to export fertilizer into Ghana
  • Making sure farms in Ghana receive sufficient amounts of fertilizer

In addition to the money from USAID, the World Bank will contribute to efforts to stabilize the food systems in Ghana. The Food Systems Resilience Program (FSRP-2) recently received approval for an additional $315 million in funding from the International Development Association. FSRP-2 will provide aid to three Western African countries: Sierra Leone, Chad and Ghana. The efforts that FSRP-2 funded should reduce food insecurity in the region by 25%.

Overall, food systems in Ghana are struggling but not entirely broken. Outside factors like the war in Ukraine and supply chain shocks that the COVID-19 pandemic caused hampered food security in the West African nation, but the existing strength of the agricultural sector as well as foreign aid should stabilize and revitalize Ghana’s food systems.

– Emma Rushworth
Photo: Flickr

young-innovatorsThe Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is launching its 2022 Express accelerator program for entry startup companies in Accra, Ghana. Many young innovators are participating in this program. MEST’s mission is to “focus on empowering startups in Ghana that are providing solutions that use technology to drive transformational change to create a more sustainable future for all.” Sustainable social impact is a pillar of the incubator’s goals. Furthermore, the professional development of women entrepreneurs will receive priority for the upcoming cohort.

Accra is rapidly becoming one of the leading tech hubs in the world. As a center for innovation, talent from around West Africa are starting companies in Ghana. Rising regional innovators will soon arrive at MEST’s offices to fine-tune their projects into successful enterprises.

The Impact

The 20-week accelerator program began on July 28, 2022. Each startup receives $5,000 at the start of the program to develop its projects. Then, top-performing participants obtain $20,000 in equity-free funding for further business growth. Young innovators in Accra are getting the capital they need to build their emerging companies.

Along with funding, MEST supports entrepreneurs through mentorship and networking. The incubator’s team of experienced consultants gives a new perspective to growth stage projects. Sector experts help participants develop marketing strategies and identify target audiences. Furthermore, the MEST Express accelerator program connects young innovators in Accra with a transnational entrepreneurial community and investors.

Finally, the MEST curriculum develops business soft skills. The model prepares entrepreneurs for the professional world through leadership, communication, critical thinking and team-building development. Each startup must present its project at the end of the program. Program alumni gain valuable experience for future opportunities in the field. MEST is producing the next generation of young innovators in Accra.

Bottom-up investment is impactful on a local level and benefits macro-economic health. Startup entrepreneurs tend to be more in touch with community issues. Innovators’ products often reflect the environments they grow up in. It is essential to finance local entrepreneurs with the lived experience to properly address societal issues. MEST’s focus on social impact is funding community-driven transformation.

Through the MEST Express accelerator program, participants are empowered to become change-makers. The funding provides opportunities and creates new wealth for young innovators in Accra. MESTS’s bottom-up investment strategy encourages a thriving middle-class in Ghana and supports domestic, as well as global economic expansion.

Startup Highlight

Codetrain is one of MEST’s many successful alumni companies. The group provides training, guidance and professional opportunities to young coders in Ghana. The company develops students with little experience into world-class software programmers and sets them up to succeed with local and international tech companies.

The program trained more than 500 students in Accra and Kumasi since it opened in 2017. Roughly 90% of these coders found employment after graduating from Codetrain. Business accelerators expand the impact and economic growth exponentially.

Future of Innovation in Ghana

While Ghana is developing into a regional tech startup powerhouse, there are still challenges facing entrepreneurs in West Africa. It is crucial that opportunities for entrepreneurial development are extended to young innovators outside of urban centers. Greater investment in Ghanian incubator infrastructure is necessary to reach talent throughout the country.

Accelerators such as MEST generate global innovation, address social issues with sustainable solutions and maintain economic health. Identifying productive business incubators and funding the expansion of these initiatives should be foundational to the United States’ foreign strategy.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic is stunting the growth of start-ups in West Africa. Combating global vaccine inequality must be a policy priority to save lives and encourage economic growth.

MEST is gathering the top young innovators in Accra for the 2022 Express accelerator program. Social impact and gender equity in the tech sector are priorities for the initiative. Startups will receive funding to advance projects. Furthermore, participants will gain valuable soft skills, professional insight and networking opportunities.

While Ghana is becoming a rising hub for entrepreneurial activity, there are still roadblocks facing young innovators. Talent in rural areas is lost due to the limited reach of opportunity. Funding is needed to expand the business incubator infrastructure throughout Ghana. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disturb economic growth in West Africa. Global health care equity and investment in bottom-up strategies should be central to Washington’s foreign policy.

Despite these barriers, the future of Ghana’s tech sector is exciting. Many successful companies rose through MEST’s accelerator initiative. This year’s Express program in Accra is developing the next generation of entrepreneurs.

– Samson Heyer
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in GhanaPoverty in Ghana has been reduced, thanks to the tremendous growth of the Ghanaian economy over the past years, but at a hidden cost: the natural resources that undergird this success are being increasingly and perhaps unsustainably, depleted. The increase in the price and production of raw materials such as cocoa, gold and oil have quadrupled the real GDP growth, and cut extreme poverty in Ghana to a Lower Middle-Income Country status, from its previous status as a Low Income Country. Nonetheless, such impressive growth must be balanced with environmental protection in order to prove enduring.

Ghana’s Precarious Dependency on Natural Resources

Residents of the Bia Biosphere Reserve in Ghana are extremely dependent on the forest for their livelihoods. As cocoa farmers, harvesters of wild honey, mushrooms and other non-timber forest products, the people living in the region cannot economically sustain themselves without such natural resources. And yet, environmental depletion has become a serious concern, seeing as local populations rely almost exclusively on the forest’s resources for income. Large corporations also contribute to this degradation: unmanaged solid waste and gold mines result in air, plastic and water pollution, contaminated sites diffuse hazardous chemicals, and general deforestation and overfishing severely strain the biosphere.

Beyond the sheer environmental toll, the economic costs of such overexploitation are immense. The World Bank Ghana Country Environmental Analysis (CEA) estimates that environmental degradation incurs an annual cost of $6.3 billion, equivalent to nearly 11% of Ghana’s 2017 GDP. Air pollution costs nearly $2 billion and causes approximately 16,000 deaths each year. The damage caused by water pollution equates to 3% of the GDP. Land degradation costs over $500 million while deforestation costs $400 million per year. In addition to the immediate economic tolls, the depletion of natural resources inhibits the potential for future growth.

Green Economy Initiatives

In response to the increasingly salient threat of the Ghanian economy’s overdependence on natural resources, local communities have begun working with UNESCO and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to put in place green economy initiatives. The project builds on the Green Economy Scoping Study, performed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) between 2012 and 2013. The goal of such initiatives is to uncover income alternatives, as to reduce local populations’ reliance on natural resources for economic survival.

The project, launched in 2013, has thus far identified multiple viable alternatives to depleting natural resources, a few of which include mushroom farming, bee-keeping, snail rearing and palm oil production. According to UNESCO, there have been 235 direct beneficiaries, of which 91 are women, who received training and support as part of the green initiatives to transition to alternative livelihood options. In addition to the direct crafts, the residents also received education in marketing and investing, as to ensure the sustainability of their new businesses.

The green economy initiatives have had tremendous positive impacts on the socio-economic status of local communities, who have since been able to vary their sources of income and avoid environmental depletion. The project attests to the importance and viability of reconciling nature and economy for sustainable growth.

– Emily Xin
Photo: Unsplash

Right To Be FreeIn an interview with The Borgen Project, Eric Peasah, founder and executive director of Right To Be Free (RBTF), speaks about the organization’s commitment to the prevention of human trafficking with a special emphasis on women and children in Ghana. His work not only lifts up the most marginalized and vulnerable but is also successful at a political level — Peasah played an important role in the development of Ghana’s Human Trafficking Act, among other efforts.

Impact

Peasah says that the organization’s mission is to make the world a better place for everyone. RTBF directly supports the “rescue, rehabilitation, reunification and reintegration of victims of human trafficking” and other exploitative conditions.

Further, modern-day slavery is far more widespread and in need of urgent action than the world may be aware of. To illustrate, the U.S. has a total population of 320 million, out of which more than 400,000 are enduring conditions of modern slavery. In Ghana,  more than 130,000 live in modern slavery out of a total of 30 million. Of all the children trafficked in Ghana, an estimated 60% have been trafficked on Lake Volta, one of the hotspots where Peasah has worked.

Founding of Right To Be Free

Peasah says he was supposed to become a lawyer long before he started working as a social worker full-time. Instead of studying law, he went to school for social engineering and part of his studying would take place outside of the classroom, on the streets.

Wanting to go into the areas most affected by poverty, he conducted a six-month academic project on the streets of Ghana where he worked for the International Organization for Migration near Lake Volta. Peasah and his team “identified trafficked children working on and along the lake as fishing children, cattle herdsmen or domestic servants in the villages.” A quickly assembled team found that these children were in most cases trafficked by their parents – with and without consent – to support their respective households. In response, Peasah and his team established a program to rescue these trafficked children, marking the beginning of Right To Be Free.

The Main Factors contributing to Human Trafficking

Peasah says, in his view, that the two biggest problems contributing to human trafficking are extreme poverty and ignorance. In terms of Africa, it is also the lack of employment and lack of opportunity that makes trafficking so widespread. He explains that children who lack perspective or a financial support network at home, especially girls, are more susceptible to lures of a better life in Kuwait, Qatar and the Gulf countries through potential jobs as domestic servants.

Advocacy

Right To Be Free follows the four Ps: “protection, prevention, prosecution and partnership” in order to foster genuine and sustainable improvement. Annually, RTBF staff members work with local villagers to raise awareness of the dangers of human trafficking.

Staff members also teach local fishermen about the legal and social consequences of child labor and provide alternate fishing methods or occupational training. Peasah points out that many parents genuinely believe their children may have a chance at a better life and send their children off based on false promises made by human traffickers.

Once children are rescued from oppressive conditions Right To Be Free tries to rehabilitate them and later integrate them back with their families. Where necessary, Right To Be Free provides micro-loans to victims’ parents or guardians to support them financially while simultaneously monitoring them. Right To Be Free facilitates education programs, either in the shape of community schools or as a course to teach women skills valuable for future employment.

The Link between Human Trafficking and Global Poverty

“Every country whether that is Ghana, Liberia, Pakistan, or Egypt has its unique answer to the root of human trafficking, yet the one unifying tie is that all people in those areas lack something. Poverty and trafficking 100% have a link.” Children are taken out of school by their parents to help with the family income, which results in a lack of education and vulnerability to trafficking. If the same parents had wealth, there would be no need to take children out of school and they would be apprehensive of the dangers of trafficking.

Future Plans

Peasah revealed that he would like to initiate a program where children who are currently suffering in silence can have a rescue line they can call. He says that rather than only working with the parents, it is just as important to give continued support to the children as well. Further, Right To Be Free plans on building more schools for communities over the coming years to educate children and parents on the dangers of trafficking.

– Pauline Lützenkirchen
Photo: Flickr

Shea Butter Plant in GhanaShea butter, known as “women’s gold,” supports female empowerment, backs many U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), enhances the global supply chain and promotes self-sufficient development in Southeastern Ghana. To make the most of this versatile nut, Bunge Loders Croklaan (BLC), “the specialty oils and fats business of [U.S.-based] Bunge Limited,” opened Africa’s first and largest shea butter plant in Ghana, in 2019. Bunge’s example portrays how capitalizing on a burgeoning international market is mutually beneficial for the United States and the world’s impoverished, especially women.

Bunge’s Global Partnerships

As an international industry headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, Bunge’s purpose is to “connect farmers to consumers to deliver essential food, feed and fuel to the world.” Bunge serves more than 70,000 farmers and consumers by “sourcing, processing and supplying oilseed and grain products and ingredients.”

The BLC sector specializes in delivering oils and fats to farmers and industries within and across borders. Reaping benefits since the opening of the shea plant in Tema, Ghana, Aaron Buettner, a president of BLC, said that the “latest investment in Ghana plays a critical role in strengthening BLC’s global infrastructure for processing and supplying high-quality shea products to our customers around the world, while also bolstering the entire ecosystem of regional crushers and local shea collectors in the West African region.”

BLC’s Shea Butter Plant opens Financial Opportunities in Ghana

Bunge’s global network increases employment and enhances the self-sustainable development of the local shea community in Ghana. About 16 million families in Africa rely on the shea industry to financially sustain their households. In late 2020, Tema’s shea butter plant provided jobs for 73 people, mostly residents and individuals around the community. Currently, in 2022, Ghana has met the unemployment rate indicator under the SDG “decent work and economic growth” at a value of 4.52.

Celebrating Ghanaian Women’s Empowerment

Women represent most of the shea butter plant industry in Ghana. With “skills passed on from mother to daughter,” women pick, process and sell shea nuts and their components. Women leave their homes at dawn and travel to the shea parklands to generate income for their families.

Autonomy in labor helps to raise the status of women. The gender equality goal of the Sustainable Development Report displays a value of 89.68 in 2020 for the ratio of female-to-male labor participation rate, indicating that Ghana is maintaining an egalitarian workforce.

Shortcomings to Women’s Rights in Ghana

Still, gender inequality remains a prevalent issue. Despite employment data that often only captures the world from its surface, women in Ghana generally have fewer assets and are more impoverished than men. In fact, according to Oxfam, about 94% of the wealthiest people in Ghana are men.

Women are even disadvantaged in the shea business due to their absence in key stages of the supply chain. Illiteracy and lack of skills prevent many women from maximizing their wealth and industries’ production. In fact, “significant challenges remain” in the ratio of female-to-male mean years of education received.

How BLC Helps Females in Ghana

The Where Life Grows campaign, connected with BLC, committed itself to “empower shea collecting women, create socio-economic value in their communities and conserve and regenerate the shea landscape.” The campaign builds the capacity of women through training and by providing innovative resources. For example, during the off-season, women working with the Where Life Goes program organize, plan and discuss their needs with colleagues and receive loans. The women use the borrowed money to rent land, buy fertilizer, hire tractors to plow the soil and more.

Furthermore, BLC and the campaign implement solutions to alleviate stagnated access to sustainable clean energy in Ghana that impedes on shea production. BLC’s management designs efforts that provide energy-efficient pots and stoves that “use 60% less wood,” emit less smoke and decrease nut boiling time. These newly improved tools improve working conditions, sanitation and efficiency. By investing in local skills development overseas, the Missouri-based company attains a more efficient and sustainable production process while accounting for humanitarian needs.

Bunge’s partnerships supply training, tools, farming activities and direct sourcing to women in Tema, ultimately strengthening both ends of the value chain. Global businesses, namely BLC, operate with a multitude of incentives, such as strengthening the independence of women in Ghana and creating jobs in the United States. The international shea business improves Ghanaian individual and economic wealth and works to close the gender gap.

– Anna Zawistowski
Photo: WikiCommons

 

Nurses in Ghana
On a routine home visit, Barbara Senu, a nurse, was worried about a newborn baby’s umbilical cord stump. The baby’s young mother applied sand and toothpaste and Barbara feared it would lead to an infection that could turn deadly. The nurse, while still in the young mother’s home, pulled out her phone and took a video to post it on the CHN (Community Health Nurse) on the Go WhatsApp group. At that time, she was informed to tell the mother not to do so and gave the mother instructions on umbilical cord care. CHN on the Go has helped nurses in Ghana better serve the community.

Working in Aloneness

Discovered in July 2014, CHN on the Go is a smartphone app that is helping nurses in Ghana bring the necessary needed maternal and child health services in hard-to-reach areas in Ghana. The app is also improving the knowledge and skills of nurses in developing communities to feel less lonely from their relatives that live far from their area, Concern Worldwide U.S. reported.

Regularly nurses would walk for hours or get around by motorcycle or canoe to get to their patients. The nurses would leave their homes early in the morning and return late at night, visiting more than a dozen villages in one month, according to Concern Worldwide U.S. Once the nurses arrive, they have to deal with difficulty in helping young mothers and newborns because of the lack of recognition and potential for career advancement, this has left the nurses unmotivated and shell shocked.

Communication Skills

The most popular feature of the CHN on the Go smartphone app is the app’s e-courses. The app lets the nurses in Ghana get credit for the completed and passed classes, helping them to get credit while also increasing their clinical knowledge and improving their education and careers. More than half of the nurses find it difficult to leave their jobs and return to school.

According to Concern Worldwide U.S., the topics on the app range from family planning to pregnancy issues. The nurses have said they go over the e-learning courses at least once or twice before going to bed at night. The pictures on the CHN on the go smartphone app help the nurses effectively communicate a problem if it arrives. The images help because some clients aren’t literate, and the nurses can’t speak the local dialect. Visuals placed on the smartphone help mothers throughout their pregnancies and even after.

In Closing

CHN has achieved the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MGDs). CHN argues that this app will help improve health service deliveries and positive outcomes such as maternal and child health, guinea worm station coverage and HIV/AIDS treatment. CHNs have faced many challenges, like capacity problems and neglect by the health care system but have no plans of giving up.

In June 2019, more than 80% of CHN had had at least supervision interactions with their clients. There was a total of 215 CHNs using the CHN on the Go app as well as 55 supervisions using the app as well between January and July 2015 across five districts. CHN on the Go hopes to continue helping mothers and their children in hard-to-reach places.

– Alexis King
Photo: Flickr

Neglected Tropical Diseases in Urban Settings
Globally, urbanization is on the rise. In 2007, for the first time, the number of people living in urban areas exceeded the number of people living in rural areas. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), in 2014, “Continuing population growth and urbanization are projected to add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050, with nearly 90 per cent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.” The increase in urban populations introduces a set of new challenges including the elimination of neglected tropical diseases in urban settings.

Neglected tropical diseases are a group of infectious diseases that often occur among those in poverty and shared geographic locations. NTDs are primarily concentrated in Asia, Africa and Latin America while also the places with heightened urbanization. One common way of addressing NTDs is through mass drug administration (MDA). However, most knowledge about the effectiveness of MDAs is regarding rural areas.

Challenges

Some challenges of neglected tropical diseases in urban settings include complex governance, population heterogeneity and mobility. First, the government structure can influence the effectiveness of NTD programs significantly. Coordinating between different agencies, services and government positions can be confusing and hinder the NTD program. Different government alliances and rules of jurisdictions will change how the government will support NTD-specific MDAs. Furthermore, the lack of governance or rule and order will also hamper the delivery of MDA. Some slum settlements have high criminal activity, which poses a security threat for MDA workers and cultivates distrust of outsiders.

Urban areas tend to have high social and economic diversity leading to cultural divides. Those living in informal settlements, with poor access to clean water and other services are most at risk of NTD exposure. Conversely, high-income people are also hard to reach with MDA measures. In Ghana, many drug administrators did not feel comfortable working in high-income areas. Also, due to low perceived risk and higher perceived access to health care, high-income groups prove to be not compliant with NTD preventative measures.

Increased mobility among those who live in cities also poses a problem to MDA efforts. People in urban settings change addresses, address daily activities and leave town more often than those in rural settings. Drug administrators are less likely to find an individual at home during the day. Especially when the drug may require multiple rounds of administration, efforts to ensure coverage over those rounds becomes more difficult.

Strategies

To address the challenges above, some strategies to battle neglected tropical diseases have proven helpful in urban settings. One strategy is to determine if an MDA campaign is necessary. Sometimes dividing the city into smaller areas and identifying groups of the city that do and do not need treatment can allow for more focused use of resources in a strategy called micro-targeting.

Other strategies are effective campaigning and identifying suitable distribution platforms. Depending on the population, the MDA campaign will have to look different. Identifying the different populations within the city is crucial to determining how each can be reached. MDAs are typically delivered through schools, door-to-door service or fixed posts. In urban settings, fixed posts tend to be the most appropriate. Flexible hours for these posts are also helpful to accommodate different schedules.

There are many other strategies including utilizing different communication channels, hiring of diverse backgrounds and addressing possible concerns effectively.

Conclusion

Urbanization is a growing reality for areas containing neglected tropical diseases. Adjusting the approaches to combat these diseases will determine the future of disease prevention. Current and future research into this issue will only deliver more insight and increase the effectiveness of MDAs in urban settings.

Rachael So
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Ghana
Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves any procedure that removes or causes injury to the external female genitalia and is most frequently performed on young girls in rural, traditional communities. In terms of female genital mutilation in Ghana specifically, the Upper East and Upper West regions note the highest rates of FGM, at 13% and 32.5% respectively for females between 15 and 49, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2017/18.

FGM and its Consequences

The World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes FGM into four distinct types, all of which entail unnecessary harm to the female genitalia.

In addition to being incredibly painful and medically unnecessary, FGM has many severe side effects and outcomes. According to a study led by Evelyn Sakeah that BCM Women’s Health published in 2018, short-term effects include bleeding, shock and increased risk of contracting HIV from dirty knives and razor blades used to carry out the procedure. Long-term effects include infections such as urinary and reproductive tract infections, lasting pain during urination and intercourse, menstrual difficulties, keloids, pregnancy complications and ongoing psychological distress.

Despite all of these significant complications, including many others not listed above, and the lack of medical necessity of the procedures, FGM still occurs in these communities.

Obstacles to Ending FGM

Although 94.4% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 believe female genital mutilation in Ghana should end, the brutal practice still continues. Unfortunately, FGM has significant ties to culture and tradition within these rural Ghanaian communities, which makes the procedure difficult to stop outright.

Within these communities, locals view FGM as a critical aspect of teen pregnancy prevention and marriageability. Community members see the removal of external female reproductive organs as a means to reduce sexual activity among girls and prevent premarital sex as communities consider premarital sex extremely taboo. Communities believe that the removal of the clitoris, in particular, decreases sexual sensitivity and arousal, and therefore, decreases the likelihood of sexual engagement, which in turn, prevents teen pregnancy.

Additionally, these communities see FGM as a means of feminization. Society considers the clitoris the feminine equivalent of a penis; communities believe it produces masculine personality traits, such as aggressiveness and anger. As a result of this, the removal of the clitoris is viewed as pivotal to introducing desired feminine traits, such as obedience, to ensure suitors and greater society deem a girl marriageable.

The Good News

Despite the seemingly never-ending battle to end female genital mutilation in Ghana, the country is making significant progress. Between 2011 and 2018, the prevalence of FGM in women aged 15-49 decreased almost twofold to only 2.4%. When breaking down the information further, it became evident that FGM among the youngest age group studied, women aged 15-19, dropped down to only 0.6%.

In 2007, Ghana made an amendment to the Criminal and Other Offenses Act of 1960 to prohibit ‘female genital mutilation’ specifically and increase the severity of penalties. Strong governmental support to end FGM manifests in agencies specifically devoted to ending the practice, such as the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. This agency organizes events involving local governments and groups that raise awareness about violations of women’s rights and the health implications of FGM. Many other organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, also aim to fight against FGM through tactics ranging from legal action to community education.

Organizations Ending FGM

Two NGOs, 28 Too Many and Orchid Project, combined their unique experiences and expertise in April 2022 to present a more comprehensive, unified front against FGM.

28 Too Many is an England and Wales-based charity that Dr. Ann-Marie Wilson founded in 2010. For more than a decade, Wilson has undertaken extensive research and provided community members and activists with the tools and information to end FGM.

In addition to collecting and interpreting research and data, 28 Too Many also adopts both a top-down and bottom-up approach to ending FGM: engaging with influencers as a means to advocate for change and spread information about FGM and developing advocacy materials and tools that local organizations can easily implement. This two-pronged approach of action and education allows for 28 Too Many to achieve the greatest impact possible.

The Orchid Project is another U.K.-based NGO that Julia Lalla-Maharajh OBE founded in 2011. Lalla-Maharajh OBE built her charity on the premise of partnering, sharing and advocacy. The Orchid Project primarily partners with grassroots organizations around the world, giving them the materials and support necessary to make a larger impact. The NGO shares key knowledge and the practical tools needed to accelerate change while also advocating among governments and global leaders to prioritize the ending of FGM.

Through research, communication and discussion with members of these rural Ghanaian communities, activists are able to glean key information as to why FGM is still occurring, allowing them to better target key community members in a culturally sensitive way and provide better, safer alternative options to prevent teen pregnancy.

– Bryn Westby
Photo: Flickr

Ghana's Gold Purchasing
On May 17, 2022, Ghana announced its new plan to counteract continuously increasing inflation rates by bulking up its gold reserves. Ghana’s government decided to begin purchasing gold domestically to maintain economic growth and flow by strengthening the currency’s backbone and slowing inflation rates.

Inflation and Currency Issues

Ghana’s overall inflation rate is at its highest since August 2009 and is likely to get worse before it gets better. The inflation rate has been increasing monthly for a year and peaked at 23.6% in April 2022. Food prices rose 26.6%, with other non-food-related prices inflating 21.3%, up an additional 4% from April 2022.

Ghana’s national currency, the cedi, exacerbates Ghana’s inflation issues. As Ghana is so heavily reliant on international operations, such as trade and imported goods, the country requires an excess of foreign currency in its reserves. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghana’s currency exchange rate remained steady, making the cedi stable. However, there has been a growing demand for international services and exchanged goods worldwide. Ghana has not been able to keep pace with the demand or generate enough foreign currency to not deplete most of the country’s reserves. Thus, Ghana’s currency is depreciating rapidly while the inflation rate continues to impact all its citizens. Therefore, Ghana’s government must find solutions before the poverty rate rises with other economic problems.

Ghana’s Gold Purchasing is a Necessity

Ghana is one of the leading countries in gold mining and exportation. It is the seventh-largest gold producer globally and has been nicknamed “Africa’s Gold Coast” for decades. With all the gold that Ghana produces, it is impressive that its reserves have gotten so low. Still, it is also detrimental to the health of the economy. The lack of gold reserves means Ghana’s gold purchasing program is necessary to build the economy back up and give the cedi strength. Any gold-producing country has its economy at its healthiest when gold prices are higher because the value of gold exports is higher.

In 2021, Ghana’s Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, stated, “But gold has become the cornerstone of central banks’ modern reserve management. Central banks have become the third force behind jewelry and technology and investment sectors in the global gold demand in the past decade.” Plans for Ghana’s gold purchasing began in 2021 but started in earnest in 2022 to back the cedi and bring life back to the economy as gold solidified its place in the Ghana economy.

No central bank can fake or split gold as quickly as other flat values or currencies, and its value cannot inflate unless the gold markets and prices do. As Ghana produces an immense amount of gold, buying the gold locally saves the government millions of dollars that they do not have in foreign or local currencies.

What Makes Ghana’s Gold Purchasing So Important?

Ghana’s lackluster currency and high inflation rates could bring devastation to all its citizens, making the lives of those in poverty that much more challenging. Ghana, which has a poverty rate of 11.3%, will likely see this rate worsen if the government cannot halt the inflation rate or stabilize the currency. Ghana’s gold purchasing program must take effect quickly enough to counteract the damages done to families at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods.

Inflation of prices hits poorer households harder and faster than it does the more well-off households and families. Lower-income households in developing countries, such as Ghana, spend almost 50% of their income on food alone. As the prices inflate, households with higher incomes can switch to lower-quality goods that the lower-income families are already purchasing. Lower-income households cannot spend their money on lower-quality goods.

Furthermore, a weakened currency makes exports and incoming goods more expensive, causing the prices to increase and driving those in poverty to spend more than they have. Ghana’s gold purchasing will give the economy a chance to revitalize by stopping rising prices and allowing households in poverty to not spend as much. Without the help of Ghana’s gold purchasing program, the poverty rates could soar again. Thankfully, the sooner Ghana implements the program, the sooner economic flow can continue at a healthy pace without inflation causing mayhem on families’ wallets and income.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr