The Ghana Health Alert (GHA) has described the nonexistence of testing centres for the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country’s northern sector as a strong indication that the wellbeing of the regions within the northern belt is the least of government’s worries.
Calls for testing centres to be established in the north, so that samples obtained from suspected COVID-19 cases in the Savannah areas do not have to be dispatched to the south for assessment, have been loud and persistent. The northerly clamour is growing rapidly, but it also appears to be far from yielding the desired results from the Seat of Power.
“We note with deep disappointment that samples taken from the northern parts of Ghana have to make a journey of several hours before they are submitted to laboratories in the Ashanti and Greater Accra regions for testing and results released several days thereafter, thus complicating effective and efficient treatment and prevention of transmission and contacts tracing. One would have thought that, considering the fact that three regions in the northern part of Ghana have recorded cases of COVID-19 and increasing in numbers, government would have hastened the creation of the testing centres as a matter of urgency rather than continue to transport samples to Kumasi and Accra for processing.
“As an association, we are greatly concerned and shocked at the failure of the government to provide testing centres which are accessible to the regions falling within the northern belt of the country despite several pronouncements on this matter by the association. It is our firm belief that the government’s lack of commitment in ensuring testing centres are established within the northern sector, despite the promise to do so, violates the human rights of the citizens living within these areas and further suggests a serious neglect of the people of these regions. The GHA considers government’s inaction as a human-right violation and a form of discrimination and lack of value for the lives of those people living in these areas,” said the GHA in a press statement issued by its Executive Secretary, Dr Vida Nyagre Yakong.
The statement, then, emphasised: “The GHA has also observed that the delay in getting results for samples from the northern parts of Ghana heightens tensions and anxiety among health workers and the general public. We believe that the failure of the government to make testing centres accessible to people living in these deprived areas is insensitive and greatly weakening the already inadequate health services in these parts of Ghana and the efforts to combat the spread of the epidemic in its early stages.”
North faces Double Trouble of two Deadly Diseases
Cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM) has killed about 50 people in the north in 4 months since the infectious disease broke out this year.
Whilst efforts are being made to prevent the CSM death toll from rising further, scare of the COVID-19 pandemic has remained a major distraction everywhere. The GHA thinks that the north, considering the double trouble confronting it today, should be the most suitable candidate for government’s priority attention at no other time than now.
“We believe that in the wake of a global health pandemic, all citizens should be provided equal access to all resources required to protect their lives. It is also surprising that government has remained insensitive to the well-being of the people of these localities when they are facing additional public health burden as they battle COVID-19 as well as Cerebrospinal Meningitis which has claimed almost fifty lives.
“The GHA is, therefore, cautioning the government that further delays in resourcing the northern parts of the country to fight the two deadly infections could have serious public health consequences. Health is a basic human right and not a privilege. It is our hope that the government will heed to our call and act immediately to avert any further spread of infections and loss of precious lives to the two diseases,” the statement said.
The GHA is a civil society organisation made up of medical and public health consultants, senior health personnel and academics with the goal of advocating for improved health and educating Ghanaians on the importance of public health.