Ghana Social Opportunities ProjectDuring the past two decades, sustained and inclusive economic growth has enabled Ghana to reduce the number of its citizens living in poverty by half, from 52.6 percent to 21.4 percent, and this number is continuing to drop. Although there is much to celebrate about the recent reduction of those living in poverty, there are still a number of people, primarily in rural areas, that are living in poverty. The Ghana Social Opportunities Project is an initiative headed by the World Bank with the goal of alleviating poverty in these rural areas.

The project is focused on supporting the creation of social protection policy and increasing participation in the Labor Intensive Public Works and the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty programs, among other social protection initiatives.

Labor Intensive Public Works Programs

Labor Intensive Public Works programs, a major component of the Ghana Social Opportunities Project, is a social protection tool often used by governments in developing countries to reduce unemployment and alleviate overall poverty.

The programs seek to employ people for physical infrastructure projects using local labor and raw materials. By using local labor instead of machinery for infrastructure projects, more jobs are created and thus more people are employed and earning money to provide for their family.

The successes in Ghanaian communities where Labor Intensive Public Works Programs are at work are evident, as the percentage of people living in poverty has decreased significantly.

Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Programs

Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty programs, better known as LEAP programs, are another major component of the Ghana Social Opportunities Project.

First launched in 2008, LEAP programs were adopted by Ghana’s government with the help of the World Bank. The programs aim to alleviate short-term poverty while encouraging long-term human capital development. LEAP programs provide cash and health insurance to poor households across the country. Currently, there are 90,785 households that are being paid through LEAP programs.

Additionally, LEAP is set to launch a new initiative this month called LEAP 1000. This initiative targets extremely poor households and is concentrated in Ghana’s northern and upper east regions.

LEAP programs are one way the government is working with international aid organizations to solve issues of poverty on a localized, household level. Because of the cash benefits LEAP communities receive, many communities are experiencing a turnaround and poverty reduction in rural areas is catching up to the rest of the country.

Continued Growth

The distribution of wealth, particularly between rural and urban areas, is the main focus for many developing countries. Much of Ghana’s economic growth has come from the migration of people to Ghana’s cities. Opportunities exist in urban areas that usually do not exist in rural areas; this is one reason for the unequal distribution of wealth among Ghana’s population.

Because Ghana has recently benefited from prolonged growth for a long period of time, the country’s challenge is distributing this growth among its entire population. This can be achieved through infrastructure transformation, the emergence of a more specialized and skilled labor force and an increase in Ghana’s geographically mobility. By continuing to focus on these areas, Ghana can ensure that this development will keep expanding and benefit all of its citizens.

– Sonja Flancher

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 Ghana
In recent years, researchers, doctors and health organizations have begun to target the high rate of pneumonia deaths. As one of the largest causes of death in children, pneumonia and researchers’ search for its solutions have not been taken lightly. The Ghana Health Service and partner GAVI, supported by UNICEF, launched vaccines to combat the infection in 2012.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a bacterial, fungal or viral infection of the air-sacs in one’s lung or lungs, usually caused by the inhalation of specific or diseased germs. The infection causes fluid build up in the lungs, difficulty breathing, high fever, sweating, chills, chest pain and discoloration of fingertips. The best way to treat this infection is through immunizations and antibiotics.

Historically, pneumonia has been the leading cause of death in those under-five years old. Steps have occurred to decrease death rates from year-to-year, but yet unfortuantely, the number of deaths and the percentage of children lost to pneumonia is still staggering.

What Are the Impacts of Pneumonia?

In the year 2010 alone, pneumonia caused the deaths of 16,200 children, and the total number of deaths brought about because of pneumonia was a reported 13 percent. Subsequently, this percentage remained consistent between the years 2000 and 2010, and the percentage of deaths at the hands of this infection remained between twelve and thirteen percent, without substantial improvement.

Despite the decade-long absence of progress in pneumonia prevention and treatment, advancements have started taking place in more recent years. In April 2012, UNICEF supported the Ghana Health Service and partner GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, in launching pneumonia and diarrhea vaccines and the first ever World Immunization Week. The introduction of these vaccines to Ghana was a monumental step towards decreasing fatalities.

Ghana Health Service and its Aid

Although the establishment of vaccinations was a large logistical undertaking — including increasing hospital refrigeration storage in all ten regions of Ghana — the children of the country have benefited greatly from such measures. Pneumonia, for the first time ever in 2013, was not the leading cause of death for those under-five, though it was still the second-largest cause. Consequently, the total percentage of pneumonia causing fatalities decreased by 44 percent by 2015.

The installation of the pneumonia vaccine to Ghana has helped combat the vast amount of children who are annually impacted by the infection; however, there is still much progress to be made. As of 2017, UNICEF worked diligently to decrease pneumonia cases through fighting poor sanitation and open defecation.

How to Create Sustainable Solutions

To combat such massive undertakings, the organization implemented latrines and water pumps to as many communities as possible. Many have poured great effort into this ‘war against pneumonia’ and the Ghana Health Service, but measures must increase for significant and permanent changes to be sustained.

– Lydia Lamm

Photo: Flickr

livestock production in ghana
With adequate rainfall, plentiful vegetation and a low pest population, Ghana’s Northern Savannah Ecological Zone is an optimal environment for cattle production. Despite this prime landscape, livestock production in Ghana has remained low. Insufficient or otherwise absent livestock policies, uninformed ranching practices and lack of funding are among the many factors responsible for underperforming livestock production in Ghana.

Limitations of Meat Access

Over the years, the domestic meat industry has become so problematic that it became cheaper for Ghana to import its meat from South America and Europe. Furthermore, poor cattle production has contributed to nationwide nutrition issues. According to USAID, about 1.2 million Ghanains face food insecurity, and anemia and iron deficiency afflict much of the population.

Recognizing meat access limitations, nutrition deficiencies and cattle mortality in the country, Kamal-Deen Yakub, Damian Brennan and Luis Grolez came together to find an innovative solution to such a persisting problem. In 2013, the trio launched Farmable, a “crowdfarming” platform that connects investors to smallholder cattle farmers in the country.

Crowdsourced funding enables farmers to take better care of their cattle, receive education in agricultural best practices and business development and sell in the domestic market, ultimately improving livestock production in Ghana over time.

Here’s How it Works:

  1. Investors visit Farmable to select a farm in Ghana and start a new cow, which they can name and give certain attributes. Popular funded cows include Borat Cow, Moochacho and Moominator. Alternatively, crowdfunders can invest in a cow that’s already on it’s way to becoming fully funded.
  2. Once a cow has 20 investors, it is linked to a real cow on the farm of the investor’s initial choosing.
  3. Farmhands tag the cow, and investors can track the cow’s health and progress online through preparation for sale in the domestic meat market.
  4. After the meat sells, the investor can reap profits. Investments help continue farmer education, production and marketing efforts.

Since launching, Farmable has helped to revolutionize the cattle ranching industry for participating farmers. “The company has succeeded in bringing together 7,500 cows owned by 600 smallholder farmers. We have sold about 1100 cows through the platform direct from the farms,” cofounder Kamal-Deen Yakub told The Borgen Project.

Education and Optimization

In light of these successes, Farmable has had to put the crowdfarming platform on a temporary hold as it gears up for its next phase. The company is focusing on educating farmers and optimizing production in the interim: “We engage farmers through partnership with existing incubators working to build capacities of smallholder farmers,” Yakub explained.

Farmable recruits subject-matter experts from the University of Ghana, local veterinary officers and experienced farmers to provide training for participants.

Livestock Production in Ghana

Over the next few years, Farmable plans to establish renewable energy cattle ranches in Ghana to promote sustainable practices and cut down on costs. The company will use dung and agricultural waste to produce manure and biogas respectively to sustain these renewable energy ranches for free. Yakub encourages potential donors to stay tuned for this important next step.

The crowdfunding platform will go live again in the coming future, and Yakub hopes investors “are ready to participate in the crowdfarming and become cow backers.”

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr

How to End the Hygiene Crisis in Ghana
Diarrhea kills 2,195 children each day, more than Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, malaria and measles combined, and n
early 11 percent of Ghana’s population relies on surface water — water that collects on the surface of the ground or top layer of a body of water — for their daily hydration needs. This water is unpurified and unsafe for human consumption, yet Ghanaians lack a safe alternative. Ghanaians who ingest surface water are at risk for water-related diseases, such as ever-deadly diarrhea.  

Risk of Diarrhea

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, diarrhea is a global health concern with 1.7 billion cases occurring every year. Although diarrhea can affect any age-group, it is the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five; in fact, 2,195 child fatalities happen every day worldwide. The hygiene crisis in Ghana has escalated with diarrhea as the third leading cause of death for children under five, taking nearly 10,000 lives every year.

How Does Diarrhea Become Fatal?

Diarrhea depletes body fluids, causing dehydration, and children often die when they have lost too much water from their bodies.

Several organizations have implemented health initiatives to combat the hygiene crisis in Ghana. Preventing diarrhea is possible by increasing water availability and quality, distributing oral rehydration salts, breastfeeding infants until six months of age and educating the population on proper sanitization techniques.

UNICEF and IWASH

‘IWASH,’ UNICEF Ghana’s handwashing project, yields extremely promising results in entire villages in Ghana; the program educates schoolchildren on the health effects of not washing their hands. While touring a handwashing facility with 70 schoolchildren, District Resource Coordinator Issah-Bello said that students should share their knowledge in order to be an ambassador for behavior change and end the hygiene crisis in Ghana.

The Rehydration Project

The Rehydration Project cites oral rehydration salts, or ORS, as the most effective and least expensive way to combat diarrhoeal dehydration. ORS is a combination of dry salts mixed with clean water that replaces fluids lost from diarrhea. If ORS is unavailable, a homemade solution may be made with six teaspoons of sugar, one-half teaspoon of salt and one liter of clean water.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding infants until six months of age can reduce infants’ likelihood of contracting diarrhea because breastfeeding mothers do not prepare their infant’s formula with contaminated water.

Clean Water

Water.org believes that clean water is the way to end poverty, save lives and prepare for the future. Since 2009, Water.org has worked to increase access to safe drinking water and sanitization facilities in Ghana. The organization’s current project is expected to be completed in late 2017, and is in the process of constructing 61 water facilities.

Water.org has also reached 53,000 Ghanaians through water systems, health and hygiene education and borehole wells. With numerous solutions like these, the hygiene crisis in Ghana is well on its way to resolution.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in GhanaLocated on the western coast of Africa, Ghana is a country of lowland hills, secluded beaches and historical colonial buildings. Named Africa’s most peaceful country by the Global Peace Index, Ghana is considered a leading African nation due to its status as the first country south of the Sahara to break free from colonial rule.

While Ghana has already taken major steps towards improving the country’s stability and proficiency, such as improving water sanitation and education, it still has a long way to go in terms of building up its economic stability to mirror those of other nations. One key method to improve the country’s economy is through strengthening farmers’ access to technology and making loans more accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are both happening through improving credit access in Ghana.

Strengthening credit access in Ghana would help alleviate poverty on a large scale, and this would be mostly due to how it would help farmers and business owners. In Ghana, agricultural production encompasses 23 percent of the country’s GDP, while SMEs make up approximately 50 percent, and having credit access is a vital component of making these industries run efficiently and smoothly.

In the agricultural industry, technology is an essential component of the Ghanaian culture and economy, and unfortunately, many farmers lack access to technologies that have the ability to make the agricultural system productive. In order for farmers to have access to such resources, they need to have access to credit.

In recent years, research has shown that improving credit access in Ghana will boost the country’s adoption of more productive technologies, which will lead to a rise in the country’s overall GDP. A study was done by Swiss Management Center that also found the combination of high cost of credit and unavailability of credit are Ghana’s main constraints on the Ghanaian economy.

Lack of credit access in Ghana is a major barrier to technology adoption, and in order for Ghana to reach a stable economy that incorporates food security and safety, Ghana must find a way to overcome this. In a policy brief conducted by the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative at UC Davis, researchers identified two main concerns of credit access in Ghana:

  1. Index-insured loans are not reliable as payouts and may not cover losses.
  2. While credit loans increase credit supply, these type of loans have an extremely low demand.

In this survey mentioned above, 73 percent of the sample borrowed money in 2014, while only 54 percent demonstrated a willingness to pay market value for their insured loans. This problem of insurance is quite profound in Ghana, as lower-income and lower-educated farmers are more inclined to take out uninsured loans to cover technologies and farming supplies, while banks would prefer insured loans in order to protect their portfolios and reduce the number of borrowers.

Likewise, banks do offer loans that are specifically made to meet the needs of small businesses. However, banks are often hesitant to lend to the SME sector, and this is largely due to credit history. Banks that lend to small businesses are only willing to do so at extremely high interest rates, something that many companies are not willing to accept.

However, despite the conflicts of interest and benefits that are occurring within the credit access debate, Ghanaian policymakers are currently creating a plan that details a comprehensive strategy to improving credit access in Ghana, and the hope is that it will focus on improving the structure and stability of the country’s smaller businesses.

Both the Ghanaian agricultural and commercial industries have long ways to go until they are on a path of improvement rather than standstill, but Ghanaian lawmakers are determined to find a way to improve the country’s future credit availability.

– Alexandra Dennis

Photo: Flickr

How the U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to GhanaAccording to Tamela Noboa of the Baltimore Sun, foreign aid makes up less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget. As with many countries around the world, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ghana, and these benefits could be multiplied if the U.S. contributes more to its foreign aid budget.

The U.S. always had an unofficial relationship with Ghana in supporting refinements of its power sector, strengthening healthcare and expanding access to education. Ghana possesses a level of dependency upon assistance given to it by the U.S., a dependence by which a cut in foreign aid could further hinder the country’s development. Since foreign assistance makes up such a minimal amount of the U.S. budget, increasing the amount of foreign aid would advance both countries.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ghana in these ways:

  1. Epidemics such as Ebola can be minimized and contained away from U.S. borders. According to David Ofori-Adjedi and Kwadwo Koram in an article for the Ghana Medical Journal, the possibility of the Ebola virus appearing in Ghana was high, due to the continuous presence of the virus in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in 2014. The likelihood of Ebola spreading in Ghana stems from its ability to manage an outbreak if it arises. As Bill Gates pointed out in an op-ed for Time, using foreign aid to ensure that countries such as Ghana are prepared to address an outbreak can keep it from spreading globally.
  2. The U.S. Embassy in Ghana believes that foreign aid contributes to strengthening cultural relationships for stable networking. For instance, foreign aid reinforces markets for U.S. products, opening up possibilities for future partnerships.
  3. Continuing foreign aid distribution to countries like Ghana contributes to sustainable change that aims to improve countries on a systemic level, allowing the country to further develop and eventually lessen its need for foreign aid.
  4. Investing in foreign countries creates the opportunity for nations like Ghana to invest back in the U.S., creating jobs across the country.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Ghana is currently facing a $1.5 billion shortfall in its funding for infrastructure projects. Continued support of these needs through foreign aid can ensure that the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ghana by helping the country reach its potential and become a bigger participant in the global economy.

– Christopher Shipman

Photo: Flickr

4 Amazing People Showing How to End World Hunger from the Ground

Whenever people debate how to end world hunger or global poverty, individuals often resign themselves to the fact that the problem is too big for a single person to actually affect much change. While global food insecurity is a daunting task, people still are fighting to address it. Below are three people (and one group) who started with only a plan and determination and are now making the world a better place.

Elijah Amoo Addo (Food For All Africa)

In 2011, Elijah Amoo Addo, a Ghanian chef, saw a homeless man rummaging through his restaurant’s trash. When asked, the man told Elijah he was collecting leftovers for his friends. From that point forward, Elijah swore no food from the restaurant he worked at would go to waste.

Around 30 percent of children growing up in Ghana are malnourished, a statistic with a strong correlation to being impoverished, according to the Ghanian government. The high number of starving children in Ghana surprised Elijah and caused him to quit his job to start Ghana’s first food bank and the organization Food For All Africa.

Now, Food For All Africa recovers $5,700 in wasted food every month with the hopes of scaling up to other parts of Africa and feeding one million impoverished Africans by 2020.

Cindy Levin (Charity Miles & RESULTS)

Cindy Levin, a mother of two in her 40s, defeats the myth that there is not enough time in a day to help the less fortunate. In fact, the anti-poverty advocate dedicates her time to dispelling that very idea with her position at RESULTS. There, Cindy coaches people on how to organize fundraising activities themselves, with a focus on getting stay-at-home mothers and children involved and educating them on how to end world hunger.

But Cindy keeps going. In 2013, Cindy ran a 5K with her 9-year-old daughter; two days later, she ran a half marathon. In the process, she raised enough money to vaccinate 100 children against polio, measles, rotavirus and pneumococcal virus through [email protected], a cause she felt passionate about after traveling to Uganda and meeting with impoverished mothers.

Bill Ayres (Why Hunger)

In 1975, musician Harry Chapin and radio DJ Bill Ayres wondered why, in a world with so much, so many people were still lacking. These two friends believed that access to nutritious food was a human right and that the problem of how to end world hunger was solvable. As a result, they committed themselves to changing the policies and institutions that perpetuate world hunger.

Their organization, Why Hunger, leads by funding grassroots organizations. In 2016, the organization funded and provided resources for over 100 grassroots organizations to the tune of $485,000, with a focus on community solutions. These solutions range from agroecological training to leadership development for women and youths.

Bill Ayres and his organization believe that social justice is an integral part of how to end world hunger. A major step taken in the past year was the establishment of a national alliance of emergency food providers that hopes to shift the conversation about how to end world hunger from a charitable cause to a push for social justice.

Istanbul&I

In February 2016, 11 international students got together in Istanbul, where they envisioned creating a storytelling program to bring different cultures together and help displaced people from Syria and Iraq talk through some of their trauma.

When Ramadan came around that year, the group gathered donations to provide iftar (the traditional sunset meal) to people in Istanbul’s vulnerable Tarlabasi neighborhood. Now, 11 friends have become over 300 from 50 different countries. While cultural exchanges and soup kitchens are still an integral part of Istanbul&I, the group does so much more now. They provide digital literacy programs to refugees, give Turkish and English language lessons, landscaped a neighborhood retirement center, run comedy fundraisers and raise money to support an orphanage for boy refugees so they can continue their education.

You: How to End World Hunger

All these people began with a desire, a wish. They did not start out with money, but they believed in themselves and now others do too. So, next time someone says poverty is here to stay and nothing can be done about it, remember these four groups who asked, “how can I alleviate global poverty? How to end world hunger?” and took their brains and their hands and started working.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr

educational reform in Ghana

In 1993, the Republic of Ghana established the Ministry of Education to provide easier educational access to Ghanaian citizens. The ministry focuses on academic, technical and vocational programs. The Ministry of Education also concentrates on infrastructure, the refurbishing of schools and bringing in newly trained teachers and academic scholars.

Seven years later, in 2000, Ghana incorporated a new educational reform program, called the Ghana Education Trust Fund. The fund was installed to provide quality education from basic (elementary) schooling to tertiary (college; trade schools).

Educational reform in Ghana finally began with Ghana’s Vision 2020 Act, which started in 1996. The plan was broken down into four parts: The First Step (1996-2000), Ghana Poverty and Reduction Strategy (2003-2005), Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (2006-2009) and the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (2010-2013).

The 2020 date was set to give the Ghanaian government enough time to accomplish all of its goals, with hopes that the government will go above and beyond to exceed all of its expectations in time. Ghana finished the project in 2015, accomplishing a great deal five years before the deadline.

Education has been free for primary school (elementary) and middle school. However, high school was optional, with most high schools being privately owned, making it difficult for many families to afford higher education for their children and causing students to drop out at a young age.

In 2014, Ghana’s president partnered with the World Bank to announce a new project called the Ghana Secondary Education Improvement Project, which launched free public education at the high school level in 2017, giving children a chance to stay in school to further their education in the hope that free education will lower the dropout rate in Ghana.

The financing provides $156 million over five years, between 2014 and 2019. The plan will help the Ghanaian government improve its educational reform plan, provide educational access to underserved children, improve the quality of education and provide technical assistance. Students and teenagers are welcoming educational reform in Ghana and the chance to attend free higher-level educational institutions, and are hopeful that this program will give them the opportunity for a better life not only for themselves, but for their families too.

Promoting educational reform in Ghana will not only provide children with better academic opportunities and skills, but will also help fight against child labor. Although Ghana has set up many laws and acts against child labor, such as the Child Protection Compact and the Worst Forms of Labor acts, many children still find themselves forced into harsh labor conditions rather than attending school and receiving a proper education.

The Child Labor Coalition website tells a story of a young boy whose father sold him to human traffickers because there was no money for his education. Lake Volta, the area the child was sold into, is known for forced child labor and actively ignoring Ghana’s current laws against such dreadful circumstances. The children are usually made to work anywhere between 10-20 hours per day, are terribly abused and fed very little.

As terrifying as this is, educational reform in Ghana is the key to a brighter future for these children. It is the answer to ending child labor and lowering dropout rates. Ensuring that Ghanaian children are provided with more opportunities and prospects will allow the country of Ghana to flourish, keeping children and their families happier and healthier while providing a safer environment for all of Ghana.

– Rebecca Lee

Photo: Flickr

renewable energy in Ghana
As technological advances increase and non-renewable sources depreciate, more countries have started investing in less conventional forms of renewable energy — including the extraction of wave energy. This is the case for an Israeli-based company, Yam Pro Energy (YPE), that works to increase the amount of renewable energy in Ghana.

There is a large range of wave energy technologies that each rely on different mechanisms to harness energy; three of the methods are as follows:

  1. Oscillating Water Column
  2. Oscillating Bodies
  3. Overtopping

Oscillating Water Columns use a horizontal front-to-back motion that extracts energy using a roll rotation, while the Oscillating Bodies use a side-to-side motion to extract wave energy using a pitch rotation. The last technology is overtopping, the mechanism used by YPE, that uses a vertical up-and-down motion to harness the energy.

 

Advantages

The main advantages of these systems are its simplicity, reliability and power, which make each option a promising investment. While Europe is still the main lead market for wave technology, other countries have followed the trend; for instance, Ghana works with Yam Pro Energy to bring hydropower plants to its shorelines.

Yam Pro Energy is a long-time supporter of wave energy and works to provide millions of people with clean, efficient energy and eliminate global dependency on fossil fuels. YPE accomplishes such actions with the erection of their wave-energy-harnessing plants, also known as Sea Wave power plants.

YPE recently created a prototype that harnesses the energy from crashing waves and uses it to produce renewable energy that does not harm the ecosystem; the plant is set to be built on the coastline of Ghana’s capital city, Accra.

 

Efficiency

This prototype is more efficient than other devices, such as buoys that can easily be destroyed and can sink in rough seas, and are easily accessible. This means that maintenance issues can easily be addressed without sending out scuba divers or boats. These machines do not emit pollution or harm wildlife, and can easily withstand the harsh environment of the sea, making them a valuable investment.

Zeev Peretz, Yam Pro Energy’s CEO, says that wave technology, specifically when using YPE’s Sea Wave plants, is more efficient as it creates up to 65 percent of energy per year compared to other sources that create between 22 and 24 percent.

According to The Solutions Project and Standford University, the top sources of renewable energy in Ghana are as follows:

  1. Commercial and government rooftop solar, which accounts for 23.7 percent
  2. Residential rooftop solar, which accounts for 19.9 percent
  3. Onshore wind turbines, which account for 17.8 percent
  4. Offshore wind turbines, which account for 14.8 percent
  5. Concentrating solar power plants, which account for 11 percent
  6. Hydropower energy, which accounts for 8.4 percent

Of note, Mark Jacobson from The Solutions Project explained that wave technology is the least utilized source of renewable energy in Ghana. By 2050, it is projected that hydropower will contribute to almost 15 percent of Ghana’s renewable energy, as water energy is meant to complement other renewable energy sources rather than be a source of its own.

With its optimistic future of endless possibilities and success, it is only a matter of time before hydropower acts as a major pillar of renewable energy for Ghana.

– Chylene Babb

Photo: Flickr

mental healthcare in ghanaGhana’s healthcare system deals with many obstacles relating to disease and discrimination. The West African country faces many diseases common in Africa, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, which plagues some of its 27 million population. It is the poor access to mental healthcare in Ghana, though, that has set it apart from its sub-Saharan neighbors.

A 2012 study showed that the Ghanaian government spent $0.12 per capita for mental health treatment. This is less than half of the average expenditure of other lower-middle income countries. It is roughly two percent of spending toward mental healthcare by upper-middle-income countries.

Challenges to Mental Healthcare in Ghana

Unfortunately, a lack of spending is not the only hindrance to receiving adequate mental healthcare in Ghana. A number of other challenges have prevented Ghanaians from receiving help, including a lack of qualified professionals. A scant 18 psychiatrists practiced in Ghana in 2011.

The number of mental healthcare outpatient clinics is far greater. However, the majority of these clinics are located in Accra, Ghana’s capital. Rural areas of the country have far fewer resources, such as the Ashanti region. There are only 12 outpatient services available to its population of 4.8 million.

Introducing the Mental Health Act

The international recognition regarding poor mental healthcare in Ghana forced the country to look more closely at its practices. To this end, Ghana introduced the 2012 Mental Health Act.

The goals of the scheduled 5-year plan were to create a baseline to ensure quality reform and to compare it to the performance of other countries. The poor access to treatment in rural areas of Ghana was also addressed. Programs were initiated to bring awareness of mental health programs and resources all over the country.

With the support of the World Health Organization, the Mental Health Act implemented previously ignored practices. Furthermore, it ensured the rights of people with mental disabilities. Mental health in Ghana has always been highly stigmatized, and the Act sought to create anti-discrimination provisions and safeguards for the vulnerable.

In the years since the approval of the Mental Health Act, Ghana has taken a number of steps to increase access to mental healthcare. This has included steps to decentralize programs and integrate them into the general healthcare system. Ghana is also beginning to downsize its three largest psychiatric hospitals in order to spread access to mental healthcare throughout the nation.

Ghana’s mental healthcare system has seen incredible progress. The country recognized the need to transform the highly underfunded and stigmatized system. Now, the system offers patients better access to treatment that is free of discrimination and negative consequences. Challenges remain, but the steps taken to reshape its future have already made a difference to mental healthcare in Ghana.

– Eric Paulsen

Photo: Flickr