Dr. Wunpini: Ghana responds to the coronavirus

By Wunpini F. Mohammed, originally published on africasacountry.com

According to the Ghana Health Service, as of April 27, about 106,090 people have been tested for COVID-19. The country has 1,671 confirmed cases with 188 recoveries and 16 confirmed deaths.

Some of the government’s efforts to ease the burden of the pandemic on the population include the suspension of water bills from April to June, tax suspension for some health workers who provide essential services, suspending electricity bills for low-income Ghanaians and, more recently, distribution of food to people in need. The government has also supported the disinfection of public spaces like major streets and markets in cities such as Accra and Tamale. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has worked with the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation to provide online, TV, and radio lessons for primary, junior, and senior high schools in the country.

Although these efforts seem commendable, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that economically marginalized people are feeling the effects of the pandemic the most; from the threats to their livelihoods, housing challenges, struggles to social distance, access to basic amenities, and access to credible information about the virus, among others.

A couple of weeks ago, more than 1,000 residents in Old Fadama, a suburb of Accra, were rendered homeless following a demolition exercise carried out by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly. Demolishing the homes of poor residents while the city of Accra was under lockdown tells us all we need to know about how the government is addressing the needs of working class people.

The destruction of the homes of some residents of Old Fadama means that many including children have had to sleep in the open and have been subjected to the vagaries of the cold harmattan weather, mosquito bites, etc. This situation puts these residents at risk of contracting the virus, as they have little to no way of observing social distancing rules, access to running water and access to other resources to practice basic hygiene. Although the Accra Mayor, Mohammed Adjei Sowah, said that displaced people will be provided with temporary housing, many are still sleeping in the streets.

Meanwhile, there has been growing stigma toward COVID-19 patients in the country. This stigma can be attributed to inadequate education about the virus. Although citizen-led groups and opinion leaders have taken it upon themselves to produce educational content in some indigenous languages, many Ghanaian languages have yet to be covered especially in mainstream media campaigns.

In addition, people with disabilities have been largely excluded from media campaigns about the virus. In a statement to Sanatu Zambang Studios (a media organization in Tamale), the Northern Regional Association of the Deaf (NRAD) lamented the lack of education on the virus for deaf people, and called on media organizations to provide education on the coronavirus in sign language.

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