Sleeping Sickness
The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended Ghana for its tremendous and successful efforts in eliminating a number of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The country has gotten extremely close to eradicating sleeping sickness, or human African trypanosomosis, a parasitic disease transmitted to humans through tsetse flies. Ghana has been following a global plan to try to eliminate all neglected tropical diseases by 2030 and has found recent success in eliminating three of the 20 most common tropical diseases.

About Sleeping Sickness

Sleeping sickness, which is a parasitic disease that infected tsetse flies carry, is an epidemic in 36 African countries. If not treated, the condition is almost always fatal. Sleeping sickness disproportionately affects those who live in rural areas because the residents of those areas rely heavily on agriculture, fishing and hunting, which exposes them to these infected flies. Once someone has sleeping sickness, those infected experience fevers, headaches, enlarged lymph nodes, pain in their joints and itching during the early stages of infection. If left untreated, sleeping sickness begins to affect the central nervous system. This begins to affect the patient’s neurological condition where they start to lose coordination, see changes in behavior and personality, confusion and the symptom where the disease gets its name, an interrupted sleep cycle.

Ghana’s Success

Many, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have commended the success that Ghana has had in eliminating sleeping sickness. Ghana has eliminated sleeping sickness while also successfully eradicating two other neglected tropical diseases, guinea worm disease and trachoma. The World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhomnom Ghebreyesus commended the government and health workers, saying “This is a historic achievement, proving once again that with dedication and teamwork, we can,” on Twitter.

The fight to eliminate these neglected tropical diseases was elevated when more funding was provided after there was a sharp decline in those receiving proper drugs to help prevent these tropical diseases from 2019 to 2020, where they saw a 34% decline. Ghana received around 19 billion units of medicine and more than $1 billion through foundations in order to help eradicate these diseases.

The Importance

The president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, said in a statement in regard to the benefits of investing in programs that help alleviate these diseases that these programs, “leads to better education, health and employment outcomes, an Africa free from neglected tropical diseases is possible.” Making sure that these programs exist to help fund proper medicine to help fight these diseases while also providing proper education and awareness about these illnesses in order to counteract the stigma associated with them. President Akufo-Addo also explained the domino effect that these programs have, saying, “it leads to better education, health, and employment outcomes, and transforms lives and communities.” These programs help alleviate the hardships that these diseases cause on the people while also having everlasting impacts on these areas for the better.

Olivia MacGregor
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered sink
The Ghanaian government was quite successful in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. Some individuals took on innovative measures to combat the spread of the virus as well, such as how a man in Ghana created a solar-powered sink.

When Ghana reported its first cases of COVID-19 on March 12, 2020, Ghanian president Akufo-Addo was quick to announce the relief plan that would go on to make Ghana one of the most well-adapted countries to fight the pandemic. This relief plan included containing the virus spread, implementing lockdowns, mitigating social and economic impacts of the pandemic and expanding medical facilities. The country paired this quick response to the virus outbreak with efficient testing and contact tracing. It featured pooled testing, a method where samples from multiple individuals undergo testing together to expand testing abilities. In addition, his plan used contact tracing apps to using drones to transport COVID-19 samples.

COVID-19 in Ghana

However, as the first peak of COVID-19 cases came and went and Ghana lifted safety guidelines, cases rose again. In turn, the Ghanaian government implemented the original relief plan. This brought about a short respite in the major Ghanaian cities. Yet, it was unlike the first bout of COVID-19 cases that infected the cities in the early summer of 2020. This new influx of cases largely afflicted the remote and rural parts of the country. In these regions, populations neither had access to the medical resources present in the large cities nor the economic means to quarantine away from their jobs. Consequently, cases in remote areas have soared. President Akufo-Addo explained how Ghana “treatment centers have gone from having zero patient to now being full because of the upsurge in infections,” and how the influx has resulted in the healthcare facilities being overwhelmed.

Sustainable Solutions

To combat the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the vulnerable, rural regions of Ghana, one young man took action. He saw a lack of accessibility to basic hygiene care and an ever-increasing amount of land pollution in his rural village. As a result, Richard Kwarteng Aning decided to solve two issues with one sustainable solution. By gathering used metal barrels, recycled plumbing materials and motion sensors, Mr. Aning was able to invent a solar-powered sink! His invention allowed those without hygiene necessities to cleanse their hands, destroy bacteria and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This invention hugely benefited Ghanaians living in rural areas who would otherwise not be able to have proper cleaning resources. Anning invented his solar-powered handwashing sink to “help solve the COVID-19 problem.” He believed that the sink “will attract people to wash their hands” because placing sinks throughout villages makes them easily accessible to all.

How it Works

Anning’s solar-powered sink ingeniously solved both a need to combat the pandemic and a need to be more sustainable. He composed the sink out of solely recycled supplies and solar energy materials. The sink receives power through a solar panel disk located at the top of the sink; meanwhile, motion sensors control it. When the motion sensor detects a nearby hand, the first of two taps releases antibacterial soap. Seconds later, an alarm alerts the user that water will soon come out at a constant rate for 25 seconds. Since the sun powers the sink and people can handle it without any direct contact, the sink further mitigates any surface spread of the virus.

Government Support

Anning’s solar-powered sink quickly drew the attention of the Ghanian government and Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation offices. They patented the invention so that people can produce and sell it throughout Ghana and all of West Africa. President Akufo-Addo acclaimed the invention as stating that the “Ghanaian sense of enterprise and innovation is beginning to be felt” as a result of Anning’s hard work.

Caroline Largoza
Photo: Flickr