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Children With Disabilities in GhanaAround the world, children with disabilities are faced with many challenges that can hinder their success and well-being. In Ghana, children with mild to moderate disabilities are often denied access to education simply because of basic impairments. This creates a sense of isolation and lack of motivation among these children, and diminishes their quality of life. Fortunately, in recent years several programs led by a variety of humanitarian organizations (such as UNICEF) have begun improving education access for children with disabilities in Ghana.

With one in three children who are not in school being withheld simply because of a disability, this problem is affecting Ghana’s children significantly. Children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy are often hidden in their communities, unable to or not allowed to go to school. Parents of children with these mild to moderate disabilities often recognize their child’s intelligence, but lack local schools with the support required to care for their needs.

This is changing, however, with the help of initiatives from UNICEF and the Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CLED).

UNICEF, in partnership with USAID, has led this mission by creating and supporting inclusive schools where children with disabilities are welcomed and can get assistance. The goal of creating inclusive schools was pursued by a community outreach program where parents were encouraged to hear about how all children, regardless of ability, were entitled to an education.

From UNICEF’s initiative, more than 450 teachers have been trained in inclusive education, and children with mild to moderate disabilities have access to over 83 basic schools that provide an inclusive learning environment.

CLED has also improved education access for children with disabilities in Ghana. CLED is a non-profit organization that helps communities by equipping teachers and parents with the tools needed to best support children with disabilities, as well as by providing specialized tutoring for children with disabilities. CLED has also acted as an advocate for this issue in Ghana by leading monthly radio talk shows on inclusive education. So far, CLED has donated 2850 school supplies, provides tutoring programs in 30 schools, and has trained 2292 teachers.

While many children with disabilities still lack access to proper education, the solution to this problem will require better understanding and support from communities. However, through these initiatives led by UNICEF and CLED, more and more disabled children are able to learn and express themselves in inclusive schools.

Kelly Hayes

Ghana Poverty Rate
The Ghana poverty rate had a slightly contradictory story since 2005. While economic growth steadily increases by about 7% each year, inequality has increased. Poverty remains a consistent problem in specific areas.

As a result of the discovery of offshore oil reserves in 2007, the economy saw a significant boost in 2010. This boost lifted Ghana into middle-income status. According to UNICEF, the Ghana poverty rate fell from 56.5% to 24.2% between 1992 and 2013. The new millennium took a toll, however, going from a 1.8% decrease in poverty per year in the 1990s to 1.1% since 2006.

Ghana has a huge gap between rural and urban households, which almost doubled since the 1990s. The poverty rate in urban areas at 10.6% is nothing compared to 37.9% in rural areas. Almost four million children continue to live below the poverty line, and poverty reduction is not keeping pace with population growth. A Ghanaian child is about 40% more likely to be impoverished than a Ghanaian adult, a staggering 15% rise from the 1990s.

The World Bank lists Ghana’s significant economic barriers as high youth unemployment, ongoing delays in the resolution of debt incurred by energy state-owned enterprises, the high cost of electricity and the need to better match its capacity and the demand for supply. It predicts the country’s prospects as “good,” providing no unforeseen fiscal problems. Both oil and non-oil sectors will likely improve, allowing economic growth to rise in 2017.

The substantial inequality gap between the richest 10% in the country versus the poorest 10% continues to grow. The wealthiest make up about one-third of national consumption and the poorest consume only 1.7%. By 2006, the richest 20% of the country held more than half of the country’s income. In studies between 2013 and 2016, economic growth for the richest percentile was more than 1.4 times greater than the poorest.

The highest levels of Ghana’s inequality are found in specific regions. According to UNICEF, “national policy needs to recognize this issue and address effectively why the poorest people in these regions are not experiencing as high growth as other groups.” Clearly, something must change before the Ghana poverty rate can truly see an equal decline throughout the country.

Katherine Gallagher

Photo: Flickr


Ghana plans to end tuberculosis (TB) and other lung-related diseases by 2030 through the aid of diagnostic technology GeneXpert, according to Ghanaian doctor Frank Bonsu. He spoke at a press conference before the opening of the 20th Conference of the Union Africa Region on Lung Health. The four-day-long conference, held approximately every two years, brings together more than 800 international and African delegates to discuss and plan tactics for eliminating TB and other lung diseases from the African continent.

Bonsu is the chairman of the conference as well as the program manager of Ghana’s National TB Control Programme. He said that although Ghana has made strides in fighting TB, there are still many cases that go undetected. Ideally, 44,000 cases of TB should be detected each year, but currently, only 15,000 are diagnosed. Bonsu blames the country’s lack of modern diagnostic equipment, its low number of microbiologists, the population’s poor awareness and the stigma of the disease that keeps people from seeking medical aid.

A combination of Ghana using GeneXpert and a reduction of the negative stigma against TB, Bonsu believes, is needed for effective eradication. The National TB Control Programme also changed its emphasis from treating those who seek medical attention at facilities to its current outreach strategy in risk communities. The program hopes going out and offering aid will encourage early diagnosis, increase treatment and decrease stigma.

GeneXpert is a molecular test that can detect even the smallest amount of TB bacteria. It can also test for resistance to the common TB antibiotic Rifampicin. The main difference between GeneXpert and the other methods of TB detection, such as sputum microscopy, is its reliability and speed. GeneXpert can have results in less than two hours as opposed to weeks.

GeneXpert can only be used for diagnostic purposes and cannot be used to properly monitor treatment. It also does not eliminate the need for conventional microscopy culture and drug sensitivity testing, according to the World Health Organization, as these tactics are still needed to monitor treatment progress and detect other types of drug resistance. Yet GeneXpert is a major milestone in TB diagnostic technology.

With Ghana using GeneXpert, many more cases of TB can be caught early and treated more effectively. Ghana hopes that with the introduction of this new technology by the end of this year, along with outreach programs and a decrease in negative stigma, the country will be free of TB in 2030.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr

Ghana's Groundwater
The Water and Development Alliance (WADA), a water management program designed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Coca-Cola, provides communities in Latin America, Middle East, Asia, and Africa with safe water access and sanitation. Since its conception in 2005, WADA has implemented 35 projects. After 10 years, WADA provided 600,000 people with reformed water access and 250,000 people with improved sanitation.

Between 2005 and 2014, WADA reached Uganda, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, El Salvador, and Ghana. WADA engages with these communities with several objectives. First, they establish participatory, sustainable water and watershed resources management to benefit people and ecosystems. Second, they increase access to community water supply and sanitation services. Third, WADA fosters improved behaviors and sanitation hygiene for positive health impacts. Finally, they promote efficient and sustainable productive use for water to protect the environment and provide economic benefits to communities.

WADA’s work in Ghana is a perfect example of the program’s endeavors. Ghana’s groundwater is the primary source of water for small rural towns, and it also has exceptionally high concentrations of fluoride. Fluoride affects calcium’s strength in the human body, a reaction that children are susceptible to. The reaction threatens the development of tooth enamel, resulting in decay, discoloration and severe pitting. The high fluoride content in Ghana’s groundwater is particularly dangerous for children. According to Water.org, “seventy percent of all diseases in Ghana are caused by unsafe water and sanitation.” The program directly improved water access for 4,000 families.

WADA also reformed five schools in Ghana’s Sekondi/ Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly. Schools often lack clean water for handwashing and latrines to properly dispose of waste. The program trained more than 40 teachers on hygiene behaviors and latrine facility maintenance. Furthermore, it created school hygiene clubs, installed 40 handwashing stations and 7 latrines. The project serviced approximately 5,400 students with safe water access and sanitation. Since 2007, WADA has serviced 8,000 schoolchildren.

Through the Water and Development Alliance, USAID and Coca-Cola has successfully changed thousands of lives around the world. This organization is a perfect example of how corporations and aid organizations can work together in order to reduce global poverty. Hopefully, other alliances such as this one can continue to improve the state of the world.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Flickr


Ghana is a relatively small country located in western Africa, with a population of about 28 million people. Of these 28 million people, tens of thousands die every year from common diseases in Ghana. In recent years, Ghana has made improvements in its national health, such as the reduction of infant mortality. While the health of its people continues to improve, there are still many serious illnesses that affect the people of Ghana. Here are some of the most common diseases in Ghana:

Lower-Respiratory Infections

The leading cause of death in the country in 2012, lower-respiratory infections affected more than 22,000 people in Ghana. Lower respiratory infections are not uniform in how they affect people, but these infections are normally diagnosed as acute bronchitis and bronchiolitis, influenza and pneumonia. These infections are now being linked to the quality of air both indoors and outdoors in Ghana. Air pollution, as a result of a number of deaths due to lower-respiratory infections, is now considered one of the leading causes of death in Ghana.

Malaria

Malaria is a disease of the blood which is transmitted through mosquitos. In Ghana, malaria affects thousands of people every year. In 2012, over 17,000 people in Ghana died from malaria. While malaria is a disease that can be prevented, many people in Ghana do not have access to preventative drugs. In April of this year, The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Ghana, along with Malawi and Kenya, will participate in a WHO-developed program that will provide the world’s first malaria vaccine beginning in 2018.

HIV/AIDS

As of 2015, about 270,000 people in Ghana were living with HIV/AIDS. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a disease that can lead to the development of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency virus). This disease attacks the body’s immune system, killing cells that help the body fight off infections. While there is no cure for the disease, it can be managed with different types of medical care. Despite the care available, many people in Ghana do not have access to these treatments. As a result, HIV/AIDS was the cause of death for over 13,000 people in Ghana and the orphanage about 160,000 children.

These common diseases in Ghana still have a significant effect on the population. While these issues can be fixed or managed more easily in other countries, Ghana still struggles to keep these ailments from causing serious harm, or even death, to their people. The country continues to fight against these diseases with actions such as the distribution of the first malaria vaccine, providing a vision of progress and providing hope for the future.

Olivia Hayes

Photo: Flickr


USAID has funded a project in Ghana that will allow for the construction of 55 new community-based health planning and services (CHPS) compounds in the Northern and Volta Regions, to improve access to health care and reduce preventable maternal and child deaths.

While Ghana already has 155 existing compounds, they are run down and often overused. The health facilities simply cannot handle a number of people coming into the facilities to receive help from the surrounding communities. While USAID is funding the project, Systems for Health Project is implementing it in a collaboration with Ghana Health Services (GHS).

Four of the compounds that USAID is funding are currently under construction, due to be completed by the beginning of September. The new health facilities will be constructed in two different regions, with 28 new health facilities being in the Northern Region of Ghana, and 27 new health facilities in the Volta Region.

As part of the project to be completed by the end of next year, the 155 existing compounds including 78 in the Northern Region, and 77 in the Volta Region, would be renovated. This means that these compounds will be up to date with the new health facilities, and possibly able to handle a higher volume, as they are struggling to keep up now.

The new health facilities will be a big help to Ghana, as they are expected to improve the nutritional status of pregnant women and children, due to the nature of the facilities, watching their overall health as well as maternal. The provision of primary health care in rural areas of Ghana will also be improved by bringing healthcare to the doorstep of the underprivileged communities. The new facilities even have space where the GHS will be supporting interventions that will improve the reproductive health of women.

These classes will benefit the community and are one of the simple yet necessary needs that these communities have been struggling to provide for their population. It will be good for Ghana to continually use and maintain these facilities.

These centers will not only create high in-demand skilled jobs but will aid in lifting Ghana’s communities out of the sickness and hurt they have been experiencing for so long.

Rilee Pickle

Photo: Flickr


The coastal African country of Ghana has emerged as a force in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS across the continent. Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS by raising awareness and seeking to disrupt cultural forces that have historically kept infection rates high.

UNAIDS appointed Ghana as the chair for its Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) for the year, with Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu chairing both PCB meetings and Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo addressing the June meeting. Ghanaian First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo has also been named as a Premier Ambassador for HIV Advocacy by the group.

“We will certainly work hard to justify the confidence reposed in us. We are committed to working closely with UNAIDS to achieve our collective goal of making our world AIDS-free by 2030,” Agyeman-Manu said on the UNAIDS official website.

Ghana is home to approximately 270,000 people currently living with HIV and has made great strides over recent years in addressing the epidemic. It reduced the number of HIV infections by 57 percent since 2000 and nearly doubled the amount of HIV testing women have received since 2008. The previous lack of screening for the disease is an assumed factor in higher infection rates, especially among adolescents.

UNAIDS deputy executive director Jan Beagle recently visited the country in anticipation of the announcement to meet with the government and citizens of Ghana. “As Chair, Ghana brings experience and energy to the Programme Coordinating Board. We are looking forward to Ghana’s leadership to drive forward the implementation of the UNAIDS 2016-2021 Strategy and to help us make the end of AIDS a reality,” Beagle stated.

During her visit, Beagle attended a town hall-style meeting with Ghanaian women personally affected by HIV/AIDS. The rate of infections among women is particularly high in the country, almost double the rate of men, and infected women are stigmatized. Infected widows face even harsher conditions as they are often stripped of their belongings or homes due to local customs and laws.

UNAIDS is also working with women’s rights organization, the Mama Zimbi Foundation (MZF), and its Widows Alliance Network (WANE) network. This organizational collaboration is key to how Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“We need to empower women, and make sure men are also fully part of the discussion– we need to work together for a better future,” MZF founder Akumaa Mama Zimbi appealed during the meeting. The MZF’s latest project seeks to create a permanent, stable facility to provide job training and health education for daughters of displaced widows.

Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS by recognizing that the disease is not just a virus, but a complex health issue overlapping socioeconomic and cultural issues. The country’s efforts may be the best chance the world has at eliminating the disease by 2030.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr


In recent years, education in Ghana has suffered due to untrained teachers, particularly in disadvantaged communities. In 2012 Ghana partnered with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to address the issue of equal access to education.

According to the World Bank, Ghana faces a disparity in the number of trained teachers between the disadvantaged districts of Northern Ghana and the relatively affluent southern districts. Part of Ghana’s partnership with GPE included a grant that funded the Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) program. Ghana’s government selected 8,000 teachers from impoverished communities to receive training during holidays. This allowed teachers to continue working while improving their skills during the summer and holiday breaks. The course began in 2012 and lasted four years.

The goal? To improve access to equal education in Ghana by closing the economic and educational gap between advantaged and disadvantaged communities.

The World Bank has evaluated UTDBE’s successes since the program’s conclusion in 2016. It has been noted that UTDBE-trained teachers showed skills and average scores comparable to teachers who had training before entering the classroom. The course is also more cost-effective than pre-service training. Having more trained teachers means that children in disadvantaged areas now have the same educational opportunities as those in more developed areas.

Last October, the World Bank partnered with GPE to fund a two-day training course for 120 teachers in Akwatia, Ghana that focused on health in schools. Sightsavers and Partnership for Child Development implemented the program. The goal of the project is to converge all school health programs on one platform. If the project succeeds, every child will have access to health services in school no matter their economic status.

The two-day training provides teachers basic skills for early identification of students with hearing, vision or intellectual disabilities. These skills will allow teachers to offer their students early referrals, which will give them the treatment they need to succeed in school. The project also aims to deworm all students in the Denkyenbuo District in Ghana and conduct eye screenings for both teachers and students.

Rachel Cooper

Photo: Flickr

 Education in Ghana
Nana Akufo-Addo, The President of Ghana, ran as a candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the national liberal-conservative party, in the past three election cycles. He was defeated in 2008 and 2012 by candidates from the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the national social democratic party. Nevertheless, he defeated the NDC candidates in 2016 after accusations of electoral fraud.

In 2016, the NPP campaigned on a promise of free Senior High School (SHS). President Akufo-Addo has since followed through, assuring Ghanaians the government will fund the costs of public SHS education in Ghana for all those who qualify for entry in the 2017-2018 academic year.

The SHS policy assures no cost to students or families for tuition. Tuition, as well as admission fees, library services, science center fees, computer laboratory fees, examination fees, utility fees are all free. The policy also includes provisions for free textbooks, boarding and meals for full-time and daytime students.

The announcement was made in the President’s speech as a guest of honor at the 60th-anniversary celebration of Akuapeman SHS in the Eastern Region. The initiative has been authorized in hopes of improving the quality of education in Ghana.

Akufo-Addo detailed that a society that wants to develop into a modern, profitable and constructive participant in the global market requires an educated pioneering and labor pool. By that logic, he argues, the nation must enact its educational policies swiftly and effectively.

The President believes that education is the factor limiting the nation’s economic development and, for that reason, is committed to providing a free public SHS education in Ghana.

Along the same lines, the government intends to create incentives for a higher standard of teaching. President Akufo-Addo hopes this initiative will motivate hard work at both ends of the classroom.

Overall, the goal is to provide all children with equitable and accessible education in Ghana.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in GhanaMalnutrition in Ghana has cost its economy $2.6 billion annually or 6.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) due to increased health care costs, additional burdens on the educational system and lower productivity by its workforce, according to a new United Nations report.

In the Northern Region, malnutrition is much more prevalent with 20 percent of children under five being underweight. As a result, there is a high stunting rate of 32.4 percent. The region is also plagued by high rate of micronutrient deficiencies such as anemia and vitamin A deficiency.

The USAID Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING), a collaborative project dedicated to sustainably reducing poverty and improving livelihoods and nutritional status of vulnerable populations, called for exclusive breastfeeding to combat malnutrition in Ghana.

“Mothers should stick to [exclusive] breastfeeding for the first six months after which they can introduce the sour foods to children,” nutrition officer of the USAID-RING Project, Kristen Kappos underscored.

Kappos also implored health workers, volunteers and farmers to continue raising people’s awareness on breastfeeding within their operational zones.

As far back as 1991, Ghana adopted the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) to promote and support the practice of exclusive breastfeeding. However, exclusive breastfeeding rate has remained unchanged for two decades at 64.7%, far lower than the World Health Organization would prefer.

According to a recent study, knowledge gaps in key nutritional areas, especially infant and young child feeding, are the main reason leading to a low rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Ghana.

About 26% of the mothers studied were unable to define exclusive breastfeeding and 22% of them said breastmilk only was not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the child. They believed that the child may not be satisfied and could die if fed with only breastmilk for six months. Nearly 90% of the mothers did not know that breast milk could be expressed, stored safely and given to the child when the mothers were absent.

In addition, cultural factors also create challenges for mothers to breastfeed. The majority of the mothers showed a lack of confidence in expressing and storing breastmilk, a taboo in the local context.

Interventions must be designed to increase women’s confidence and dispel their misconceptions regarding breast milk, USAID-RING Project urged. Meanwhile, Hajia Ayishetu Bukari, Central Gonja district director of Ghana Health Service, also emphasized the need for employers to create and maintain conducive workplaces for exclusive breastfeeding practices.

Yvie Yao
Photo: Flickr