Healthcare in GhanaFor Ghanaian students enjoying Empower Playgrounds, Inc.’s (EPI) merry-go-rounds, scrapes, cuts and bruises are shrugged off with a laugh. However, treating medical emergencies like malaria infection, especially in rural areas, is no laughing matter.

EPI, A nonprofit organization based in Ghana, operates in remote locations where electricity is almost nonexistent, and medical centers are extremely scarce. By building playgrounds that generate electricity, EPI prioritizes children’s entertainment as much as their health and education.

The Borgen Project had the opportunity to speak with Ben Markham, the founder of EPI, about healthcare in Ghana. According to Markham, when a student falls extremely ill at school, a teacher will accompany the student to the nearest trained nurse, if one exists. The student and teacher will often travel by foot out of town, and if the medical emergency is severe, the teacher will leave the student at the facility and walk back to the community to inform the child’s parents.

Fortunately, healthcare in Ghana is transitioning to include more technology and communication channels. With substantial telehealth investment injected into rural Ghanaian towns, these communities stand a chance to receive basic health supplies and on-demand medical attention through telehealth methods.

Telemedicine is More Accessible Than In-Person Visits

In response to COVID-19, Ghana’s Ministry of Health proposed to open 94 new hospitals across the country between 2020 to 2021. In a statement addressed to the nation, Ghanaian president Akufo-Addo said that the pandemic exposed “the deficiencies of the healthcare system,” casting blame towards under-investment. So how will the addition of more hospitals benefit areas outside of the country’s municipalities?

Lack of basic healthcare in Ghana stands as a serious issue in the non-urban areas of the country. Nearly half (49 percent) of Ghanaians live in rural communities, and many communities lack a central facility and have a shortage of medical professionals. The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has partnered with various entities to solve this problem on the ground.

For example, Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) trains volunteers to provide health services in rural communities. Additionally, GHS has partnered with Novatoris Foundation to develop teleconsultant centers. These centers allow community nurses, who usually lack equipment and staff, to speak with urban nurses over the phone when medical urgencies arise, such as childbirth.

Within the last ten years, healthcare in Ghana has seen emerging interest and attention directed toward telehealth. When the first teleconsultant centers opened in 2011, 60 percent of calls were maternity-related, mainly due to the fact that the majority of maternal mortality occurred in rural areas. In effect, telemedicine became an avenue of investment to bridge spatial and temporal gaps for remote Ghanaians.

Vodafone Proves to be a Major Player in Ghanaian Health

Among technologies and assets helping Ghanaians stay informed about their health, the cellular company Vodafone stands out.

The company has partnered with Ghana’s healthcare industry through its philanthropic arm, Vodafone Ghana Foundation. In 2019, the foundation cleared the medical debts of 180 Ghanaian patients who had been discharged yet detained due to outstanding hospital bills. Upon settlement, all 180 former patients were released from detention. In 2018, the company partnered with the central government to monitor epidemics, specifically targeting the Ebola virus, by aggregating heat maps from customers’ GPS movements. They are doing the same with coronavirus today.

In the spring of 2020, as the novel coronavirus moved into Ghana, Vodafone stepped in to dispel misinformation. The Vodafone Healthline Medical Centers, call centers equipped with medical experts, expanded services to include representatives who communicate in a variety of local languages including Ga, Twi, Fante, Ewe and Hausa.

Managing Expectations

Markham and his staffers know of telemedicine services, but they remain skeptical. Cellular signal breaks up where cell towers are not present, and towers can often be 32 kilometers outside of a remote community. In addition, many Ghanaians turn their cell phones off to save battery, since many of them are still powered with AA batteries rather than chargers. Cell phone credits are also considered precious, leading to many people turning their devices off to save unused credits. All these factors could inhibit the ability of telemedicine to improve healthcare in Ghana.

However, Markham feels optimistic about the role that technology can play in providing health services to rural-based Ghanaians. He believes grassroots efforts, such as the Community-Based Health Planning and Services, should continue to expand at the same rate as telehealth and tech-based health initiatives.

– Victoria Colbert
Photo: Empower Playgrounds, Inc.

Slums in Ghana

As the urban population of Ghana grew, so did the number of people who live in slums in Ghana. In 2014, according to the World Bank approximately 37.4% of people who live in Ghana’s urban regions lived in slums. After Ghana’s independence in 1957, its urban population grew because many people moved from rural communities to urban regions. The country’s urban community has grown from approximately 36.4% in 1990 to approximately 56.7% in 2019, making it one of the most urbanized countries in Africa. A slum is defined by the UN as a contiguous settlement where the inhabitants are characterized as having inadequate housing and basic service.” With approximately 5.5 million people living in slums in Ghana, non-government organizations are working in the community to help address some of the problems that the people face such as sanitation and evictions from the government.


Ghana’s Housing Crisis

As young people move into the city to look for jobs and other opportunities, they end up moving to informal settlements because living in formal settlements may be too expensive. Housing in Ghana can be unaffordable to the “urban poor” because the cost of both land and building materials can be too expensive for people to invest in affordable housing. In addition, the government has been slow to respond to the growing need for housing in Ghana. However, in 2015 the government created a new National Housing Policy to address Ghana’s housing needs.


How does the government view the slums?

Old Fadama, one of the largest slums in Accra, is nicknamed by the Ghanaian government and some members of the public, as “Sodom and Gomorrah.” These two biblical cities were destroyed due to their sinful actions. To the people of Old Fadama, the nickname is hurtful because they see it as the government painting a doomed picture of the city to justify evictions. The image also ignores the fact that many people have made a living there. Some residents have recycled electronic waste to make a living. Local organizations, like the Slum Union of Ghana and its international partners such as the Slum Dwellers International, continuously advocate against evictions.


People Living in Slums Face Evictions

Slums, like Akwatia line and Old Fadama in Ghana, are prone to evictions because of the location they are built-in. During evictions, the government often does not provide people living in the slums with alternative housing. In April of 2020, the government ordered the demolition of houses in Old Fadama, one of the oldest slums in Ghana. Approximately 1,000 people were evicted. The reason for the demolition, according to local news sources, was to remove sediment from the lagoon to reduce the risk of flooding.

This is not the first time demolitions have happened. Demolitions between 2003 and 2006 left more than 7,000 people without homes. The demolition that took place this year received criticism because it occurred during COVID-19 when people were asked to stay at home and practice social distancing. Amnesty International has condemned the government for its actions. The treat of demolition makes it difficult for people who live in slums to invest in the places that they live because they may be evicted.


Lack of Sanitation

Another major problem that slums in Ghana face is the lack of adequate sanitation.  Many people who live in slums do not have a bathroom in their place of residence, so they often depend on using public bathrooms. The lack of private or individual restrooms in Ghana does not end with slums. Places of residence and schools can be built without restrooms.

To solve this problem, groups such as the Media Coalition on Open Defecation in Ghana are advocating that the government work toward limiting the number of public defecations. The lack of adequate sanitation increases the risk of getting diarrhea and diseases like cholera. Although the lack of private bathrooms impacts a community negatively, the need for restrooms has provided entrepreneurs with new business ventures because they can charge money for the use of public bathrooms. According to Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) the use of public toilets has become part of the culture in Ghana. Currently, 60% of households in slums use public toilets.

To solve the problem of limited bathrooms in the slum community, WSUP works with Ghana’s Ministry of education to provide schools with “toilet blocks.” Furthermore, one of the innovative ways that the organization has helped is by building toilets that are not connected to sewer systems. These toilets store human waste in cartridges that are taken to a waste treatment facility by a clean team whose job is to then send the waste to a plant and replace the cartridge. The clean team is paid a monthly fee to remove the waste.  The toilets can be placed in residential areas where some people may find it difficult to access a public restroom.

Although the housing crisis in Ghana may look bleak, the government, citizens and non-government organizations are passionate about solving the problem. In 2019, the government of Ghana entered into an agreement with the UN to build 100,000 houses by 2022, a project that would also provide jobs to people in the community.
-Joshua Meribole
Photo: Flickr

Drones in AfricaThe mission of Zipline, a company started in 2014 and based in San Francisco, is to “provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies.” To accomplish this goal, the company has created a drone delivery service where drones in Africa distribute lifesaving medical supplies to remote clinics in Ghana and Rwanda. More recently Zipline has expanded to other locations across the globe, including the U.S.

Poverty in Rwanda and Ghana

Rwanda is a rural East African country that relies heavily on farming. Although the country has made improvements in recent years, the 1994 Rwandan genocide damaged the economy and forced many people into poverty, particularly women. As of 2015, 39% of the population lived below the poverty line and Rwanda was ranked 208th out of 228 countries in terms of GDP per capita. On top of this, Rwanda only has 0.13 physicians per 1,000 people, which is insufficient to meet health care needs according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ghana, located in West Africa, has fewer economic problems than neighboring countries in the region. However, debt, high costs of electricity and a lack of a stable domestic revenue continue to pose a threat to the economy. The GDP per capita was $4,700 as of 2017, with 24.2% of the population living below the poverty line. Although Ghana has a higher ratio of physicians per 1,000 people than Rwanda, with 0.18 physicians, it still falls below the WHO recommendation of at least 2.3 physicians per 1,000.

Benefits of Drone Delivery Services

On-demand delivery, such as drone delivery services, are typically only available to wealthy nations. However, Zipline evens the playing field by ensuring that those living in poorer and more remote regions also have access to the medical supplies they need. Zipline has made over 37,000 deliveries. In Rwanda, the drones provide deliveries across the country, bypassing the problems of dangerous routes, traffic and vehicle breakdowns, speeding up delivery and therefore minimizing waste. Additionally, Zipline’s drones in Africa do not use gasoline but, instead, on battery power.

Drone Delivery Services and COVID-19

Zipline’s services have been especially crucial during the COVID-19 response. Zipline has partnered with various nonprofit organizations (NGOs) and governments to complement traditional means of delivery of medical supplies on an international scale. This has helped to keep delivery drivers at home and minimize face-to-face interactions. As there are advances in treatments for COVID-19, delivery by drones in Africa has the potential to provide access to the vulnerable populations who are most at risk. At the same time, it can help vulnerable people stay at home by delivering medications directly to them or to nearby clinics, minimizing travel and reducing the chance of exposure. Zipline distribution centers have the capability to make thousands of deliveries a week across 8,000 square miles. Doctors and clinics simply use an app to order the supplies they need, receiving the supplies in 15 to 20 minutes. The drones are equipped for any weather conditions.

New means of providing medical equipment are helping to ensure that the world’s poor have access to the supplies they need. A company called Zipline has been using drones to deliver medical supplies to Africa, specifically in Rwanda and Ghana. During the COVID-19 pandemic, drones have been crucial in providing people and clinics with the medical supplies they need.

Elizabeth Davis
Photo: Flickr

6 Facts About Hunger in Ghana The Republic of Ghana is located on the West African Gulf of Guinea. Ghana is known for being a well-developed nation that is progressing more toward modernism every day. With a population of 28.8 million people, 24.2% or nearly 7 million people live below the poverty line. These are six facts about hunger in Ghana.

6 Facts About Hunger in Ghana

  1. Over the last 2 decades, Ghana has reduced hunger and poverty within its population. Poverty affects farmers in rural cities. In addition, most are living without clean water or access to healthcare. About 90% of families or 25.9 million citizens in Ghana rely solely on agriculture.
  2. Rural poverty is easily attributed to insufficient food systems. This is mostly due to Ghana being reliant on the rainy seasons. The south of Ghana gets two rainy seasons and the north only gets one. As a result of this, the north is often lacking in agricultural resources and goods more so than the south.
  3. Farmers in North Ghana tend to have unsustainable farming equipment. The equipment does not last from season to season. Poverty-stricken areas obviously struggle to sustain secure food supplies and often experience shortages, given all of the variables. Because of the food shortages, prices go up and the impoverished are in a harder spot than before to sell and purchase goods.
  4. The World Food Program (WFP) has been working to fight poverty and food insecurity in Ghana since 1963. Education, food security and sustainability training have been the main focuses of the WFP. Working alongside the Ministry of Agriculture, 1,500 farmers in small-scale areas have been able to participate in the Purchase for Progress program. Additionally, The Purchase for Progress program builds a sustainable future for rural farmers by building stronger markets. The program also brings communities out of poverty and contributing to the sustainability goals that will keep fewer people impoverished.
  5. While the numbers may seem grim, 4% of Ghanaians are at risk of being food insecure or undernourished. However, things seem more positive when you compare this to the entire African region, where 20% of citizens are at risk. In 2018, Feed the Future provided $9.3 million of loans to small businesses and farmers for quality equipment and supplies. Also, this keeps businesses from being unable to operate due to a lack of resources and funds.
  6. In 2018, Feed the Future supported the newly developed Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources. This allows the delivery services of the aforementioned goods to reach the small and rural communities that needed it most. Clean water and sanitation resources were distributed to 110,000 households in 1,800 rural communities.

While hunger in Ghana has been a struggle, that will not always be the case. Over the last 20 years, Ghana has progressed past mass food insecurity and malnourishment. Sustainability and persistent progress have allowed for the capital, Accra, to become metropolitan. The modernized version of Ghana includes less impoverished families and less food insecure communities.

Kim Elsey
Photo: Flickr

technological improvements in GhanaGhana is a nation located just west of Nigeria, with a population of 31 million people. Of those people, six million are food insecure, most living in rural areas. However, Ghana has been working harder than many of its neighbors to use technology to combat food insecurity. Over the last decade, the country has worked to improve its technologies and sustainable food sources. These are six facts about technological improvements in Ghana.

6 Facts About Technological Improvements in Ghana 

  1. Ghana has made plans to boost economic growth. Ghana aims to achieve low- to middle-income status in the upcoming decade. Agriculture is the ticket to a sustainable living environment. The issues hindering productivity in Ghana are related to inadequate infrastructure, as well as a lack of fundamental training in land management and equipment. Ghana has been investing in this future through eduction; around 6% of Ghana’s gross domestic product goes toward education, one of the highest percentages in the world.
  2. Productivity in Ghana is at a higher rate than neighboring nations. Ghana is a member of the United Nations and is a part of world trade. Gold, cocoa and oil are three of the country’s primary exports, and this keeps profits high enough to continue to educate and train younger citizens to farm and harvest. Ghana is one of the first countries in the region to achieve these milestones, with neighboring countries looking up to them. The GDP of neighbor country Togo is lower than that of Ghana. About 30% of the population in Togo live below the poverty line. In comparison, Ghana’s poverty percentage is 23.4%.
  3. Ghana must shift to incentive-driven economic policies to improve leadership. In order to do this, smaller land rural farmers must be able to identify and voice their needs, such as crop production, needing improvement on harvest and post-harvest procedures and finding the value in their commodities. When farmers feel heard, their incentive to increase productivity will grow. A non-governmental organization (NGO) project was conducted to open sustainability training centers in Ghana to expand knowledge. This project resulted in the improved health and livelihood of everyone involved.
  4. In 2017, there was a breakthrough in the development of a solar-powered vehicle for transportation. The breakthrough, called “aCar”, was developed by students at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The prototype was developed to further explore the transportation-related needs of the country. This did astronomical things for the environment and farmers alike. The vehicle caters towards the farmers’ local needs. The aCar has become a convenient way to transport goods and trade with other farmers at markets in town. The car is solar powered and does not require fuel, which, in turn, saves farmers money. Furthermore, the vehicle is affordable and has the ability to use local materials to maintain the car.
  5. Accra is becoming a hub for technology advancement and the future of the nation’s development. The capital city of Ghana is the home of many tech firms and startup ideas. The city of Accra boasts companies such as mPedigree, a pharmaceutical company, and Rancard, which provides telecommunication services with other companies in the region. It has helped thousands of students growing up in Ghana find a path and way of learning.
  6. Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Accra is providing complete IT training, funding for software startups and even mentorships for all students. Having more young people trained in IT is helpful for the growth of technology and productivity within the nation. These schools and programs give young Ghanian innovators hope and inspiration, ultimately giving hope for the future of their nation. As a result, students in cities are learning skills that they can use internationally or locally to solve environmental and technological problems. Tech companies like hubAccra, Ispace and MEST are a working to hone the skills of those who want to learn to develop their communities.

Technology improvements in Ghana continue to increase today. Ghana is shaping the future by instilling all the skills and foundations into its youngest citizens to continue growing, developing and improving. The median age for Ghana’s capital city is 21 years old. The Ghanaians are young and flourishing, constantly learning new things and adding programs to their hub for technological development.  In the next decade, Ghana hopes to be a self-sustaining, middle-class economy through advanced technological improvements.

– Kimberly Elsey

Photo: Flickr

enslaved children in GhanaTouch A Life is a nonprofit organization located in Dallas, Texas that rescues enslaved children in Ghana. Randy and Pam Cope co-founded the Touch A Life Foundation in November 1999. After reading about child labor trafficking on Lake Volta in 2006, the couple decided to focus their organization’s contributions to Ghana. Touch A Life seeks to further expand its accomplishments, by liberating as many slaves as possible and providing rehabilitation services.

Enslaved Children in Ghana

The International Labour Organization reports that an estimated 20,000 children are currently enslaved on Lake Volta, working for fishermen who are considered their “masters.” Typically, the traffickers trick families into selling their children for roughly $250, promising the families that the children will receive an education. Most children, some as young as 5 years old, come to the lake from Ghanian villages hundreds of miles away.

Working in partnership with a devoted team of Ghanaians and the Ghanian Department of Social Welfare, the Touch A Life Foundation has rescued hundreds of trafficked children. The organization does not reunite the children with their families due to fears that the cycle of trafficking will persist. Instead, Touch A Life provides housing for rescued children.

A Holistic Approach

Through the housing programs Touch A Life offers, the organization administers holistic and customized child care. Their procedures include regular medical and mental assessments, rehabilitation arrangements and educational and vocational empowerment. By offering these services through their housing accommodations, Touch A Life provides hope to the children in order to help in restoring their lives.

In 2012, Touch A Life manufactured its first long-term rehabilitative care center for trafficked children. Located in Kumasi, Ghana, the Touch A Life Care Center is home to more than 100 rescued children. At the Care Center, the children receive the education that was promised by traffickers but resulted in enslavement. In 2015, the organization constructed an all-girls children’s dorm called Zachary’s House in Kumasi, Ghana. The home now fosters 14 young girls who were rescued in the fall of the same year.

Later in 2016, Life Academy Center launched in Accra, Ghana, helping transition the children from the Care Center to independent adulthood. The Academy currently serves eight students in their mid-20s. The students are offered professional skills education related to banking, health awareness, public speaking and goal development. They are also a part of the Ghana Sewing Collective, which is led by the Life Academy Mentor, Eunice. The Ghana Sewing Collective teaches the students the basics of sewing to make products, introducing the students to working for a small business owner and working with a team towards a shared goal.

Furthermore, all of the housing campuses include rehabilitative art centers. In 2016, Kim Lewis Designs and the team from Art Feeds aided Touch A Life in crafting a therapeutic space where the children can express their emotions creatively. Kwame Ayensu is the current Art Director for the center and engages the children in art healing practices.

Beyond Ghana

Touch A Life also offers rehabilitation centers in Vietnam and Cambodia. In Vietnam, the organization operates a house in Saigon in order to protect vulnerable children from trafficking in Southeast Asia. The home currently supports 30 abandoned children. The identities of the children are withheld due to safety concerns. Rapha House in Cambodia works to rescue and heal AIDs orphans and sexually exploited children. Rapha House is home to 220 children, 25 adult women and has two art centers on its campus, including the Selah Art Center and Lilly’s Art Center.

Touch A Life in Ghana has educated hundreds of rescued children who have moved on to Ghanian boarding schools and even university. The organization enables and equips rescued children with opportunities to pursue a new life filled with freedom and hope. Touch A Life continues to rescue children in the Lake Volta region and plans to advance their ambitions to end child exploitation. Touch A Life’s website provides multiple options for those interested in getting involved with the cause.

Kacie Frederick
Photo: @touchalife


Amid the widespread pandemic, nations worldwide have been operating under similar prevention measures to combat COVID-19. Yet, some are more effective than others, and the results are clear. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghana showed how it is collectivistic and holds personal responsibility for its citizens. On March 16, Ghana began to lockdown non-essential businesses and schools to prevent an outbreak as COVID-19 reached the nation.  As of June 4, 2020, Ghana confirmed 8,297 cases and 38 deaths. In the process of easing restrictions, Ghana allowed communities to reopen schools and universities on June 5 with social distancing guidelines. Here are seven ways Ghana is minimizing COVID-19 cases and is rearing up reopen.

7 Ways Ghana is Minimizing COVID-19 Cases

  1. On March 16, Ghana banned public gatherings altogether. The government also implemented travel restrictions to prevent any further spread of COVID-19. Ghanaian residents who traveled outside the country were required to quarantine for 14 days. All schools and universities were also closed indefinitely.
  2. On March 23, Ghana shut down all borders to travelers. This measure kept tourists from other countries from bringing the virus into the nation and allowed Ghana to focus on the infected citizens at hand. The border closures also assured COVID-19 did not spread from Ghana to other countries. By closing its borders, Ghana was able to determine diagnosed cases and isolate them from other populations.
  3. On April 2, Ghana received a donation from the World Bank to support its short-term and long-term responses to COVID-19. The overall contribution amounted to $100 million. Of this donation, $35 million was used for emergency improvements to the nation’s healthcare systems that they have in place for pandemics.
  4. The Ghana Emergency Preparedness and Response Project (EPRP)  launched through the World Bank’s provisions. The EPRP will be the blueprint for developing technologies that detect and survey COVID-19. Additionally, EPRP will cover outbreak reports to keep essential information streamlined. The initiative provides free support for COVID-19 patients who cannot afford medical or social care. The project will work to raise awareness on COVID-19 prevention measures and safety guidelines for any future outbreaks.
  5. As of April 13, Ghana administered approximately 44,000 tests for the COVID-19 virus. The comprehensive testing put Ghana significantly ahead of the curve. Making sure the majority of citizens tested for the coronavirus was how Ghana was able to obtain an accurate number of COVID-19 cases and quarantined as needed.
  6. In early April, the president announced a 50% salary increase for any healthcare workers on the front line. Nana Akufo-Addo, the present of Ghana, also told the public early on in the pandemic that Ghana would be tax-free for at least three months. Free water was also promised and supplied to anyone in need of it while on lockdown.
  7. Urban areas within metropolitan cities like Accra shut down late March to prevent any further spread of the virus through public transit. The Ghanian government kickstarted an awareness campaign to encourage social distancing and constant sanitation, such as washing your hands, to prevent viral transmissions. Wearing masks when going out for essential supplies was also highly emphasized in the campaign.

While countries worldwide are following similar prevention measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, Ghana, among other nations, was able to reopen earlier than expected. Ghana is minimizing COVID-19 cases and can reopen because of citizens’ and health workers’ commitment to implemented prevention measures. The Ghanaian government has also worked diligently to raise awareness and create proper prevention measures for rural and metropolitan areas alike. Ghanian citizens are provided with clean water, medical treatment and free counseling services to ensure social distancing measures are followed, and citizens remain healthy amid the unexpended circumstances. Due to its early lockdown and comprehensive testing, Ghana continues to lessen its COVID-19 cases and is heading toward a promising future.

Kim Elsey
Photo: Flickr

Witch camps in Ghana
A modern-day witch hunt is taking place in Northern Ghana, where witch camps are still prevalent. Neighbors continue to turn on women in their communities, accusing them of practicing witchcraft. Due to discrimination, threats and fear for their own lives, these women have to flee from their own homes. Once exiled from their homes, hundreds of these accused women end up in “witch camps.” As of 2018, up to 1,000 women lived in the witch camps, which act as a place of refuge for these women. Below are the top five things to know about witch camps in Ghana.

5 Things to Know About Witch Camps in Ghana

  1. There are six witch camps in Ghana. Spread out across the Northern Region, the six confirmed witch camps reside in Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo and Nabuli. Some sources state the possibility of more camps, but these camps are more remote and there are not many records about them. Several of these camps date back to well over a century ago. In 2014, the government created a plan to shut down the camps in an effort to stop the stigma and mistreatment of these women and reunite them with their communities. The Ghanaian government began the shutdowns with the Bonyasi camp. However, activists feared that communities would refuse to reaccept these “witches” and the women would no longer have a home. The government has since halted its plans to shut down the camps, as many of the accused witches fear returning to the communities that sent them away.
  2. The population of the witch camps is mostly women. It is almost undeniable that the communities’ accusations that these women are witches have a lot to do with sexism and misogyny. These women are often vulnerable, such as older women, single mothers, widows and unmarried women who do not fit the stereotype that their society sees as desirable. Furthermore, these women do not have a male authority figure to protect them, so it is easy for their communities to cast them out.
  3. Communities often accuse these women of things out of their control. Communities often accuse women of witchcraft because they believe they are guilty of circumstances like bad weather, disease and livestock death. Some communities exile women simply for appearing in someone’s dream. Showing signs of dementia or mental illness also leads to witch accusations. Often, communities’ accusations are based on superstition. In 2014, a woman received an accusation of witchcraft and her community compared her to Maame Water, a sea goddess that lures men to their deaths, because a man drowned beside her. The method that communities use to determine if a woman practices witchcraft involves slaughtering a chicken and taking note of its posture as it dies.
  4. Women are not the only ones who reside in the witch camps in Ghana. Children occasionally accompany women to the camps. A child may go with the accused witch in order to protect them. Often, a woman’s own children accompany her. These children suffer greatly from the discrimination of their previous communities. The camps have no access to education, little access to water and insufficient food. Most of these children go their whole lives with no formal education and spend their time completing chores. While the camps may not have the best living conditions, the inhabitants believe it is better than facing discrimination and possible violence.
  5. ActionAid is pushing to improve the conditions for women and children in these camps. ActionAid, an organization that fights for and protects women’s rights, strives to provide aid for the accused witches. ActionAid works to dissolve the camps and reintegrate the accused with their past communities. However, the organization understands that that cannot happen without ending the superstition and stigmas surrounding witchcraft. Until that day arrives, ActionAid is prioritizing the current needs of the women and children of the camps. Its work includes increasing the accused witches’ self-confidence, teaching the women their rights and finding ways they can support themselves. ActionAid promoted the creation of a network of alleged witches, Ti-gbubtaba, that works to register the camp’s inhabitants on the National Health Insurance Scheme and gain food aid. In 2011, ActionAid brought the inhabitants of all six camps together in a two-day forum. This forum was space for the accused women, children, priests, local government and organizations to come together to discuss future solutions for the camps.

These five facts about witch camps in Ghana give a look into the accused women’s lives, as well as the organizations trying to help. While organizations are making great strides to better the lives of these women and hopefully reintegrate them into their communities, much more is necessary for the future.

– Lilith Turman
Photo: Wikimedia

Democracy in GhanaGhana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, was Sub-Saharan Africa’s first nation to declare the end of British colonial rule. Kwame Nkrumah led the country into independence in 1957. The newly formed country became a catalyst for independence movements across the continent. Ghana was seen as a stronghold for a well-functioning democracy that few other nations have established since garnering their independence. Since holding its first elections in 1992 under Jerry Rawlings, democracy in Ghana has had a strong influence on the standard of living in the country and on its political and economic institutions.

Country Profile: Then and Now

When Jerry Rawlings won the 1992 election with the National Democratic Congress, it the beginning of a road to change in Ghana. A referendum pushing for a new constitution passed in April of 1992 that allowed for the reintroduction of a multiparty system. The first democratic elections were representative of the future development the country would undergo in the coming years. Previously, the nation underwent a series of military-led coups that ultimately undermined efforts to create a unified nation after independence. Ghana struggled, as most countries have, after the throws of colonial rule and the quick, jarring shift from little independence to that in full.

Under Jerry Rawlings and his Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), Ghana created “a structural adjustments economic reform” in 1983 that carried them into a new democratic regime and greatly affected the economic development of the country. Empirical data concerning factors such as GDP, life expectancy and primary school enrollment rates can give valuable opportunities for analysis of the upward trajectory that Ghana experienced after 1992.

In 2018, Ghana’s GDP was $65.56 billion while, in 1992, it was almost 10 times lower at $6.4 billion. Life expectancy has risen from 57.4 years to more than 63. The infant mortality rate, a common indicator of development and the degree of public service provisions in developing countries, has dropped drastically from 75.6 percent to 35 percent. Furthermore, primary school enrollment has undergone a 24 percent increase.

Influence of Democracy

When Jerry Rawlings ended his two terms as president in 2000, the handover of government to John Kufuor was peaceful and without incident. In the 2008 election between former Foreign Minister Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and former Vice-President John Atta-Mills, the Electoral Commission did as they had done for previous elections and invited foreign observers to oversee the production of the election. Again, the transition was smooth and transparent.

Advancements in democracy in Ghana are due, in part, to the fact that it puts politicians in a position to appeal to the needs of their constituents. The 1992 election is a prime example of this. The PNDC became popular with rural Ghanaians because of its role in the allocation of government funds to development projects in rural areas that were headed by local District Assemblies. The rural sector represents a large majority of Ghanaians, a majority that previous administrations had long since neglected.

The representation of all Ghanaians strikes at the core of the importance of providing democratic practices to transfer power to those who have traditionally and historically had none. Political incentives for leaders to invest in the needs of their people allow for the decentralization of economic power so citizens can keep their governmental institutions accountable.

Enhancing the Lives of Ghana’s Citizens

Democracy in Ghana has provided more than a baseline of free and fair elections. The day to day aspects of people’s lives change when they are accurately represented in their leadership. According to a transformation index set by a project by Bertelsmann Stiftung, which aims to understand the transition from authoritarianism to democracy in various countries, Ghana stands at 32 in a list of 129.

Indicators are measured on a scale from 1-10 and demonstrate the degree to which the country has made advancements in their transformation to inclusive institutions. Political participation and the stability of their democratic institutions are 8.5. International cooperation comes in at 8.3 while political and social integration is 7.8. These measurements provide evidence that democracy in Ghana has extended beyond promises on paper to protect civil liberties and the wellbeing of its citizens.

Perhaps the most important change that has come out of Ghana’s transition to democracy is the shift in reality for the millions of citizens who depend on their governmental institutions to provide inclusion and transparency. The implications of democracy run through their daily lives, specifically through increased attention by their leaders to the protection of human rights, civil liberties and the provision of public services. Democracy in Ghana has granted opportunities for representation and participation. Ghana’s economic, societal and political future beam with promise as the nation continues to make its way as an example of democratic rule in a developing country.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Sanitation in GhanaGhana is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa and has an increasing population of 29 million people. Despite its urbanization effort, there is still a lack of access to basic sanitation services in many areas. A significant portion of the people in Kumasi depend on public restroom facilities, and in low-income areas, there is little to no access to water. This is a large drawback of Ghana’s rapid urbanization. Here are eight facts about sanitation in Ghana.

8 Facts About Sanitation in Ghana

  1. WSUP Water Utilities: The Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has been working with the Ghana Water Company to help advise and facilitate ways to provide water to low-income districts. WSUP has encouraged local communities to contribute to the success of the service so that the result ends in proper water access to the residents. WSUP’s initiative attempts to close the gap between poor water and sanitation access and the socio-economic development and political position of women. The support of WSUP has resulted in more than 100,000 residents in low-income communities gaining access to water services.
  2. Clean Team: A project called “Clean Team” was set up by WSUP in Ghana in 2012, and works using container-based toilet systems. Residents who use Clean Team are charged a low monthly fee to access the system. Clean Team won USAID’s Digital Innovation Award in 2017 following the success of this program. WSUP was able to achieve this win after partnering with MTN to allow customers to use mobile banking to pay their fees instead of cash.
  3. UNICEF Rural and Urban Sanitation: Ghana’s open defecation rate was reported at 18.06 percent in 2017. UNICEF has been encouraging and promoting behavior changes through the Rural Sanitation Model and Strategy in Ghana to tackle this problem. The main aim is ending open defecation and advocating for the construction of household waste facilities. UNICEF has also partnered with charities that provide loans to help community members build toilets and practice cleaner and safer habits. At the end of 2018, UNICEF launched the Basic Sanitation Fund together with Apex Bank, the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources and the Embassy of the Netherlands. The loan program is targeted at developing more products to improve sanitation conditions in households.
  4. Water.org WaterCredit: Water.org has partnered with three Ghanaian micro-finance institutions for its WaterCredit program. So far it has succeeded in reaching more than 380,000 people and provided more than $2.4 million in loans. The program is aimed at providing communities with credit to invest in the construction of wells, latrines and rainwater harvesting equipment, all in an effort to reduce the cost and restrictions of clean water.
  5. School Toilet Blocks: More than 7,000 public schools in Ghana are without basic toilet facilities. WSUP is working with the Ghanaian Ministry of Education to provide schools in Accra and Kumasi with toilet facilities for children specifically, as well as hand washing blocks extensively available for both students and teachers. Of note, the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) has received support from WSUP and managed to provide toilet facilities in seven schools. The KMA hopes that this initiative acts as a model for other schools to improve their sanitation positions.
  6. Urban Sanitation Research Initiative Ghana: This initiative is a 2017 to 2020 program aimed at extensive research work around sanitation in three countries including Ghana. Led by WSUP, the program’s goal is to encourage sector changes surrounding sanitation and gather evidence that will allow the country to receive aid and funding to improve its conditions. The research exercises are only the first but very vital step in achieving success to improve Ghana’s sanitation plight.
  7. Sanitation Surcharges: Effective January 2017, a sanitation surcharge was introduced in Ga West Municipal Assembly. WSUP supported this innovation to be included with property tax in an effort to remove any heavy dependence Ghana has on donor funds to help solve its sanitation problem. The surcharge policy has been successful in that the revenue generated at the end of 2018 was over 30,000 GHS. Several similar approaches are being conceived in the country with the same aim.
  8. Health Rank: In 2015, Ghana was ranked the seventh dirtiest country by sanitation standards by the WHO with over 7,000 children dying every year from conditions such as cholera and diarrhea. Today WSUP has managed to extend hygiene training to over 2 million people. These types of approaches are ongoing to battle the links between poor sanitation and poor health.

These eight facts about sanitation in Ghana show that the country remains in disparity while experiencing progress. With the help of global institutions and non-governmental organizations, the country can be set in a position to experience a safe and sanitary future.

Regina-Lee Dowden
Photo: Wikimedia Commons