ARE GHANAIANS BECOMING AN ‘ENDANGERED SPECIES’? By CAMEROIN DUODU
No — I don’t mean an “endangered species” in the sense of the “white leopard” or the “jaguar”; or the beautiful “Mahogany” and “Afromosia” trees that once stood proudly to grace our evergreen forests, but which we have allowed foreign timber companies to log to near-extinction..
Here, I use “endangered” in its literal sense; that is to say, something that is in actual, physical danger of dying.
I shall give you two reasons for asking the question. One is the way we have allowed galamsey operators, both local and foreign, to destroy our sources of water. For instance, the river which gave me drinking water when I was growing up at Asiakwa, in the Eastern region, Supong, has dried up! Galamsey operators dug it up to look for gold in its riverbed. This altered its natural course of flow. What is left of it now are mainly ponds of smelly, stagnant water that is mud-coloured and at the same time, greenish with algae.
Thus, a river that had flowed for thousands of years is now dead for ever. Unless — hopefully — the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministry of Works can wake up from their deep sleep and combine their efforts to resurrect the river. They can do this by engineering a dredging-up of the upturned riverbed right from its source, and tracing it back down its natural route of flow — thereby helping rain-water to return it to some form of life.Even then, it will take several seasons of heavy rainfall to “depollute” it of the impurities that have killed it, as of now.
It isn’t only River Supong that has been killed by the galamsey river-murderers. The bigger river of which Supong is only a tributary, Birem, has also been destroyed. Together with many other major rivers, such as the Pra, the Oti and the Ankobra, Birem is now virtually dead.
Yet such rivers do not merely give the populations settled around them water to drink, crucial as that is. They also help the land around them to be arable, which means the lands can be farmed to provide food to the populace.
This is why most governments stringently enforce laws governing land use. Sensible governments control the application of technology to the natural environment — especially technology that is used in mining and lumbering, as this technology can affect life-giving rivers. Indeed, in my experience, Ghana is the only country in the world that has allowed its own citizens to collaborate with foreigners to destroy its water resources! Now, how sad can that be?
The second reason why I ask whether Ghanaians are an “endangered species” is that our health service appears to have collapsed around our heads. I have personal experience to support this statement. Not so long ago, a brother-in-law of mine underwent an operation at Korle Bu Hospital. I had myself gone through a fairly similar operation in the UK, and so before he went to Korle Bu, I tried to reassure him that it would be ok. He wouldn’t hear of my assurances. He was right. He never regained consciousness after his operation, but passed away.
Less than a month after my brother-in-law was buried, my sister Alice Duoduaa (Mrs Alice Sonne) who was named after the same person as myself, suffered a stroke and was hospitalised at the Ridge Hospital in Accra.
She was released after about a fortnight and we all assumed that she had been released because she was making good progress. But we were under a pathetic illusion. Ten days or so after she was released, she passed away.
I went to visit her at the Ridge Hospital when she was on admission. The place was over-crowded. My sister was lying on a bed in a corridor. So were many other patients. Clearly (I could perceive) the hospital did not have enough accommodation; it didn’t have enough doctors; and it didn’t have enough nurses. The staff were doing what they could. But they seemed overwhelmed by the odds against them.
Now, I am not the only person who is appalled by what is happening to our health service. On 12 October 2013, an immensely experienced operator in the financial field, Mr Kofi Tutu Agyare, of Nubuke Investments (he’s also a director of Tullow Oil} gave a speech to the Ghana
Doctors and Dentists Association of the UK in which he tried to ginger up members of the Association to pitch in and assist our health service to solve some of its many problems.
Mr Tutu Agyare said “ I would like to talk about the current state of affairs of the health system in Ghana, the role and the responsibility of the people in [this] room, and what we are going to do about it. As one who has had first-hand experience of the medical system in Ghana, relatively recently, I have only admiration for the quality, dedication and capability of those of your compatriots in Ghana. But….and yes there is a but. They are just not enough!
“This situation has led to some shocking and frankly, downright disgusting behaviour by some you left behind, and those who take advantage of the extreme imbalances left in the system. I recommend you all to watch the Anas [Aremeyaw] expose’ on illegal abortions in Adenta.
“Or the Global Witness report on Psychiatric care in Ghana[which] makes for pathetic reading — about the state of basic psychiatric care and the use of prayer camps.
“The report on the NHIS registration system [in Ghana] by Oxfam is [also] a disgrace.
“ The statistics on doctor/patient ratios or infant mortality, are the bane of any external medical report on the state of public health in Ghana, relative to the
rest of the world. The increasing rates of Cancer in Ghana and the fact that on average, Cancer is diagnosed in a person in Ghana roughly 9 months longer than would be found in the UK, is completely unacceptable…
“You probably also know that there is no provision in [Ghana’s] primary medical care for the routine testing of men and women over 40, for basic, potentially life- threatening issues like prostrate and breast cancer.
“We all have real life and recent examples of close friends and family members who have died or had their injuries exacerbated because basic diagnostics are inconsistent with their true prognosis, or the basic provision of things like blood and oxygen, are not necessarily available in the capital, Accra, let alone in the regions.
“So we need to do a lot more and get a lot better at giving back. It is the only country we have and we have to fix it. Yes I have heard about the failed trips to Ghana, the lack of cooperation of those who stayed behind to hold the fort and the feelings of resentment that temporary returnees with their superior attitudes and unreasonable demands get. …
“The reality is: YOUR country needs you and it’s time for this group to up its game. It’s the only country we have and it’s falling apart – unless this group takes the lead, puts its shoulder to the pump and starts to focus on its specialist subject: Fixing the Needy!...Your colleagues in Ghana are swamped and your countrymen are dying in droves.
“Some solutions: 1. The issues of confrontation and resentment regarding those left behind, have to be dealt with head-on, even if a few of these enormous egos get bruised in the process. The need to go down and set up cooperation workshops, institute training programs for new doctors and even, finally, get the emergency obstetrics Unit at Korle Bu off the ground, are too important to step back from. I need a firm and real commitment from your leaders here in the room to go down, face the issues, deal with them head on. and come back to this group with a plan that can be implemented within 6 months.
“2. The Health for Ghana initiative needs to be ramped up and become a lot more ambitious. The amount of money available to competent organised groups focused on primary health care outside the country is ridiculous but the size of the prize is commensurate with the
ambition of those looking for it. …
“3. I also believe [we need] a real commitment to bolster the teaching hospital with a steady supply of specialists and teaching staff. It’s amazing how there is no full database or easily accessible list of medical doctors, facilities and expertise in the country. The provision of these — especially the visiting ones – will go a long way to helping people get the right care wherever they are. I mean that it should be Web-based and country-wide.
“4. A medical help- line does not have to be based in Ghana but collaboration with one of the Mobile phone companies could provide a steady stream of impartial and informative advice, to counter a lot of the drivel and extraordinary claims being made by certain local specialists, who have filled the vacuum.
“5. TV is a new phenomenon and the many new Digital Channels in Ghana are clamouring for content. This Association or charity can piggy-back on to one of the channels to provide medical advice or basic information. The last two can be done from the UK or anywhere in the world for that matter and transmitted to Ghana.
“6. Is any-one prepared to catalogue and test or investigate the extraordinary number of free, diagnostic medical apps which can do for medicine, what mobile did for telecoms?
What I have tried to do here is to highlight the issues, propose a few solutions but most importantly of all. ask, plead and implore you all to UP YOUR GAME. I would love to think that [everyone] … will pledge, either time or money, or contacts, or expertise, and commit to a time- frame to help make this new, reinvigorated initiative a success.”
I say well done to Mr Tutu Agyare. I hope his words get translated into action. Definitely, our country needs all its brans, to save us from becoming — “an endangered species.”