Wednesday, 4 October 2017

World Rabies Day

Children whose parents keep pets such as dogs and cats sometimes fall in love with these pets to such an extent that disposing of them becomes a problem. Owners of pets usually give interesting names to them depending on their keepers moods and situations they find themselves. Though man's best and faithful friend, dogs transmit rabies to humans with children being the most affected. Rabies is a fatal disease of warm blooded beasts, transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Ninety-nine percent of rabies cases result from the bite of an infected dog, though cats, bats and other mammals are carriers.

Rabies is said to be a neglected disease of poor and vulnerable populations whose deaths are rarely reported. It occurs mainly in remote rural communities where measures to prevent dog to human transmission have not been implemented. Under reporting of rabies also prevents mobilisation of resources from the international community for the elimination of human dog- mediated rabies. The facts are that rabies occurs in more than 150 countries with more than 55,000 deaths every year mostly in Africa and Asia. It is amazing that 40 percent of all people bitten by suspected rabid animals are children under 15 years of age with dogs being the source of the majority of human rabies deaths. But the good news is that rabies can be prevented by keeping our animals vaccinated against it.

Sadly, rabies cannot be treated once the symptoms appear. There are however four simple steps of preventing rabies. The first is to avoid being bitten by an animal, and if bitten, the wound should be immediately washed with running water and soap for 15 minutes and then apply hydrogen peroxide or spirit. The victim should not be given Kola nuts to chew and swallow liquid while the chewed kola is applied on the wound. Instead of trying to catch the dog, it must be reported to the nearest veterinary office or clinic. In the case of children they must report to their parents, teachers or friends that they have been bitten by a dog.

Dogs can be our best friends, but sometimes when they are angry or scared, they bite. So, one must not disturb or frighten dogs, particularly when they are eating or playing with their puppies, toys, tied up, asleep or ill. When dogs are angry they show their teeth, so all of us, especially children, should keep away from dogs. Dogs drop their tails in between their legs when they are scared; and will try to run way. Dogs should be approached slowly and quietly and if you want to touch a dog, the owner or guardians permission must be sought before touching it. Allow the dog to sniff your hand before you gently stroke it starting from the back.

Although all age groups are susceptible, rabies is most common among children under 15. Since rabies is a vaccine- preventable disease, the most cost effective srategy for its prevention in people is by eliminating it in dogs through vaccination. The recent upsurge in human rabies deaths in parts of Africa and Asia suggests that rabies is re-emerging as a serious public health issue. Therefore preventing human rabies through control of domestic dog rabies is a realistic goal for large parts of Africa and Asia and is justified by the future savings of discontinuing post exposure prophylaxis for people.

We must commend Rabies in West Africa, a local organisation in Ghana, for creating a network of rabies control in Ghana and lobbying policy makers for the elimination of rabies in the country. We must create events and activities for the awareness of rabies to the public and initiate public vaccination for dogs.

Remember that rabies kills. So, by vaccinating your dog annually, you dont only protect yourself, but your pets life too.


Kenya Plastic Bag Ban And Lessons For Ghana

Kenyans recently joined more than forty other countries including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy to ban, partly ban or tax single use of plastic bags. Hence forth any, Kenyan caught producing, selling or using plastic bags, risk imprisonment of up to four years or could be fined up to forty thousand dollars. Congratulations! to Kenya for this bold decision, giving the challenge for other countries to do same, despite dire consequences in using plastics on human life, a nation's development and the environment as a whole.

Here in Ghana, several attempts have been made to ban the use of plastic bags, yet none seem to have worked. Not even the painful reminder of the June flood and fire Disaster, at the nation's capital, Kwame Nkrumah Circle which claimed the lives of many and displaced several families even pushed decision makers to take the lead in saying ''no more'', to poor sanitation and hygienic practices in the cities. Instead, the indiscriminate littering goes on unabated. Throwing of rubbish including plastic bags all over the city, from moving vehicles, in front of homes, side works, markets and other working areas etc. Many of these result into choked gutters, that contributes to flooding.

Meanwhile, the consequences of diseases such as cholera on the nation’s scare resources and the human resource are not a pleasant one to write home about. Yet, the decision makers sit and do nothing, yet government does not see why it is urgent to ban plastics in Ghana. This is not only shameful, but pathetic! Marine experts say many of the plastics drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.

According to one UN Environmentalist, Habib El-Habr, who is working in Kenya, if this practice continues, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This is not a distant story in the case of Ghana, we find plastics making it into the food chain of animals and stories have been told of how some animals have choked to death in parts of the north from eating plastics. The economic consequences are dire and cannot be underestimated.

Sadly, plastics are not biodegradable. Even as Ghana considers what I will term a death sentence of the daily pile of plastic bags on Ghanaians, it is never too late for the politicians to re-consider the ban on plastic bag usage in Ghana, besides, many attempts by past governments. In 2015, then Minister of the Environment, Mahama Ayariga made an attempt to ban the use of light plastics, there was hue and cry from manufactures and typical of politicians, that attempt died of natural causes.

For Kenya, it took three attempts over a ten year period to finally pass the ban, and not everyone is in favour of the action. The Kenyan Association of Manufacturers for example, said the ban of plastics will lead to the loss of sixty thousand jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close. Yet, Kenya took the lead to ban the use of plastic bags. Ghana can do same.

Enough of the stakeholder consultations over tea and coffee. President Akufo-Addo, please!!! Ban Plastics bags in Ghana!

By Rebecca Ekpe, A Journalist.


The victory chalked up by Ghana against her western neighbour, Cote d'Ivoire on the Maritime Boundary dispute, is what we stand to achieve as a nation when we put aside partisan politics and work together for mother Ghana.

The use of institutional memory is so vital to our development as a nation but the over-politicization of issues has been our problem.

We salute former Attorney General Marrietta Brew Appiah Oppong for thinking about Ghana and rendering her services where it was needed most and also to the current Attorney General Gloria Akuffo for allowing Marrietta the space to bring her expertise on board to help Ghana win the maritime dispute against Cote D'Ivoire.

We have lost much as a state because of how we do our politics.

To make it worse per the case of Ghana, the nation lacks the blueprint by way of a national policy to guide the activities of successive governments.

One must vehemently stress that the need for an all-inclusive government cannot be achieved with the mere implementation of party manifestos.

You cannot employ anyone whose idiosyncrasies are at variance with yours and expect him to do a good job. The pull him down syndrome has clouded our actions in the past, and even currently.

This syndrome has not only been extended to the doorsteps of people we consider our ideological enemies, but even within the group of like-minded individuals; it abounds and has affected many envisaged progress in the past.

Can you imagine what would have happened to an NPP faithful appointed to work under an NDC led government? Your guess is as good as mine.

That notwithstanding we should know that irrespective of one's political affiliation, religious differences and geographical location, we are the same people with a common destiny.

We may be many and diverse, but we are the same people with a common destiny of fighting for the growth and development of our motherland.

Agreeing to disagree is a natural phenomenon. God did not create us all the same and therefore it is unnatural for everyone to think alike.

Diversity and disagreements are inevitable in any human relations but are neither for destruction nor acrimony.

They have the inherent worth of contributing to the general well-being and common good of the nation, in that they allow for development.

Agreeing to disagree in the interest of Ghana" in the context of a multi party democracy therefore means acknowledgement and tolerance of differences of interest, principles and philosophies" as well as "principled compromises in the overall national interest" by all the actors involved in the political process.

Values such as tolerance, compassion, patience, perseverance, are necessary for social harmony. Beyond that, diversity is not intended for division, but unity in terms of purpose and actions for cohesive social existence.

There is therefore nothing wrong with having differences in opinions or ideas regarding goals and procedures on any matter in question.

However, if not handled properly or abused, disagreement may become dysfunctional and lead to social disharmony. Our civil servants must work to serve Ghana and not political parties.

Similarly journalists must put Ghana first in their gate-keeping, agenda settings and interpretation functions, while politicians should also eschew corruption and the like and the economy will get better.

One major thing worth noting is the fact that this landmark victory was a bi-partisan effort by the Attorney General, Gloria Akufo and her counterpart under the NDC administration, Marrietta Brew Appiah Oppong.

The victory in the landmark maritime boundary dispute against Cote d’Ivoire,belongs to all of us and we must congratulate ourselves.



Proposal for the institution of Founders Day, Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day

The proposal by President Akufo-Addo for legislation to designate August 4 and September 21 as public holidays has received had mixed reaction. August 4 will be observed as founders’ day while September 21 will be celebrated as Kwame Nkrumah Memorial day. Those for the proposal see it as a good one because it will bring closure to the debate over who founded or were the founders of Ghana and honour them accordingly. Those against the decision however argue that there is only one founder of Ghana and history should remain so. They believe that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah led Ghana to independence from British Colonial rule and is nationally and internationally recognized as the founder of the nation-state called Ghana.

Truth be told, there were some who began the struggle for self-determination before Dr. Nkrumah joined and accelerated the process. Those people facilitated Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's return to the then Gold Coast to be the General Secretary of the erstwhile United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). Nkrumah unfortunately fell out with them on ideological lines and founded the Convention People's Party (CPP) which led Ghana to independence in 1957. It will therefore be hypocritical to deny the nationalist leaders their place in history.

As a country we have always hailed the achievements of these people who have come to be known as the Big Six. They are even on the country's currency and have their effigies dotted around the country. We have also erected monuments in their memory. Indeed a country that does not honour its heroes is not worth dying for. To some however that seemingly gratitude always plays out in an unsatisfactory manner. They still lose sleep over Nkrumah's place in politics but to distort history to gratify a certain end is wishful thinking.

They world has voted Nkrumah the Africa's man of the millennium. There is no doubt that the role of the JB Danquahs, William Ofori Attas, Ako Adjeis, Edward Akufo Addos, Obetsebi Lampteys and of course Nkrumah himself in the independence struggle is always acknowledged. Nkrumah Memorial Day and a holiday will definitely be seen as partisan what will be done differently on August 4 which cannot be combined with the September activities to celebrated our past heroes and heroines.

In his time, the young pioneers sang a song; ‘Kwame Nkrumah never dies.’ Yes and truly Nkrumah never dies! Even in death the aura and controversy around the man rages on. The least said about the decision to create another holiday and the country's calendar the better some people believe it would be one too many considering the unpleasant situation the country’s economy finds itself.

We need to build consensus on the issue instead of it being impose on Ghanaians. If the proposed legislation is hurried through without the requisite consultation and rapprochement, the possibility of it being amended by a future government is high. Let us give to Caesar what is Caesar and to God what belongs to God. President Akufo-Addo has good motives for deciding on the two holidays. He however needs to tread cautiously in order not to give credence to people who have started conjecturing that it is a family agenda because his father and uncle will be direct be beneficiaries of the 4th August Founders’ Day event. Everybody who contributed in one way of the other to secure Ghana's independence deserves a recognition but this must be well thought through.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Need for Ghanaians to support implementation of the Free SHS Policy

At the ongoing round table organized by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD in Geneva, Switzerland, Ghana has been highly praised for rolling out of the free Senior High School education Policy. It is indeed a matter for all Ghanaians to be proud of and equally be responsible for its ultimate success. African Union Commission made the commendation, which was hailed by all present. The Commission said Ghana's introduction of a free senior high school programme is a true indication and a sure way of ensuring the growth of the country and Africa as a whole. As if by design or coincidence, this major achievement by Ghana is in tune with the theme of the meeting, which is “Accelerating Progress in Building Productive Capacities in Least Developing Countries and Other Vulnerable Developing Economies.” Ambassador Thomas Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson, African Union Commission, who gave the commendation on behalf of the AU noted with delight that the beginning of Free SHS in Ghana would give greater impetus to the AU’s agenda of having every African child in school by the end of the decade.

In many respects, Ghana has been seen as a trailblazer for the rest of the African continent. This time too Ghana is joining countries like Rwanda, Uganda, and Namibia that already provide free education at the Secondary level to lead the way to bring to fruition the dream of the AU to put every African child in school by the year 2020. With the level of poverty on the continent, there is no way such a laudable vision of the AU could have been achieved without the intervention of governments.

Ghana’s bold decision is therefore is a good omen for the rest of the continent. Most countries around the globe that are a step away from Africa and Ghana for that matter made education, their paramount priority. The free compulsory secondary school programme that Ghana has embarked upon is really an idea whose time has come. For sure, the policy is a sure way of ensuring the growth of the country and Africa as a whole. This is because Africa and Ghana for that matter do not only have the largest number of young people but also are the poorest in the world despite their huge natural and human resources.

At the moment, Ghana ranks 20th within the 52 African countries by way of the literacy rating with 57.9 percent. It is hoped that this policy by government could improve the situation to beat Burkina Faso which ranks first with 21.8 percent. In the words of Ambassador Quartey, “We would like to have a literate and a numerate Africa. We want an Africa where illiteracy is a thing of the past. With a literate and numerate Africa, the continent would be ready now to imbibe technology, apply science and technology, and find solutions.”

By Simple calculation, about 400, 000 students who have gained free access into senior high schools this year, were the same children whose mothers benefited from free maternal care under the Kufour administration some 15 to 16 years ago. The lesson is that the parent must ensure that the money that are supposed to be spent on these children would not go waste but rather rechanneled them into viable ventures to create wealth and ensure the furtherance of their wards education up to the university level to help the government build up the needed human resources for national development.

All of us who share in this pride must also share the accompanying responsibility and exhibit high sense of support and optimism of this important policy as it will benefit all Ghanaians in particular and Africa in general.


Implementation of the Free Senior High School Policy

The free SHS Policy was a critical campaign promise in the 2008 and 2016 general elections. The announcement of the policy which derives inspiration from the Constitution, received both praises and criticisms from a wide range of people. Politically, those on the other side of the divide said it was only a campaign gimmick and the policy cannot be implemented in view of the socio-economic challenges of the country.

All the negative presumptions must give way to reality. The unveiling of the logo for the initiative was a great pointer to the fact that all is set for its roll out. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in February 2017, officially announced the intention of his government to fully implement the Free SHS. The President said by free SHS, the government is saying in addition to tuition, which is already free, there will be no admission fees, no library and science centre fees, no computer lab fees, and no examination fees. Also no utility fees will be charged. There will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals. Day students will get a meal at school for free. The President pointed out that the Free SHS will also cover agricultural, vocational and technical institutions at the high school level. The policy also involves the building of new public Senior High Schools.

This is indeed a great relief to parents and students. Parents can now channel their resources to other activities that will enhance the living standard in their homes while government takes care of their wards in school. A 26-member Free SHS Implementation Committee was inaugurated by the Minister of Education and a Free SHS Secretariat established to handle all issues pertaining to the implementation of the policy in September.

To add impetus to the commitment, the Minister of Education in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service, GES, held series of meetings with key stakeholders within the GES to sensitise them to the policy and the roles expected of them. The free SHS policy will address inequality and ensure equal opportunities for all students through the removal of cost barriers. It will also enable students who otherwise would have terminated their education at the JHS level to acquire functional and employable skills through the acquisition of secondary education as well as enhance the human capital base of the country. It is also aimed at making secondary education the minimum academic qualification in Ghana. The budget per student include one-time fee items for first year students amounting to GH¢435.00 per day student and GH¢438.00 for each boarding student. The policy will also cover all recurrent fee items amounting to GH¢101.47 for day students and GH¢105.47 for boarding students.

It is important to acknowledge that currently all Senior High Schools have received all the core textbooks ready for distribution to all first-year students under the free SHS policy. The initiative is critical for human resource development of the country and all stakeholders must ensure its success; come what may. Let’s make it work so it becomes a great yardstick for other countries in Africa and beyond. Critiques and duty bearers who may through their actions or inaction throw spanners into the wheels should be mindful of the supreme national interest and rather support the policy. It is the desire of every well-meaning Ghanaian that all the necessary resources will be provided to reduce the hitches which usually accompany novelties of such national character.

The Ghana Education Service should be strict on school authorities that may engage in acts that may undermine the implementation of the policy. Regional and District Free SHS Secretariats should be established where parents and guardians who encounter challenges can go for redress.

We must all support the Policy for All its good intentions.


Synchronising National Development Efforts To Ensure Long Term Sustainable

Good governance as a tenet in a democratic dispensation has been widely recognized as a key ingredient for development. Multi-Party Democracy gained root in most parts of Africa in the early 1990s replacing dictatorial regimes. Evidence seems to confirm that African countries where multi-party democracy has been established perform better as compared to non-democratic states. This notwithstanding, one of the challenges that confront multiparty democracy is consensus building for prudent sustainable long term development. Time and Time again governments formulate good and credible laws, policies and strategies to propel socio-economic development. The daunting task however is the capacity to implement these policies and strategies effectively and sustainably.

It is important to emphasize that the implementations of some of these plans are sometimes truncated mid-way through the plan period sometimes as a result of change in government. It is therefore heart-warming that in recent times some present and past governments have endeavoured to continue some programmes started by previous governments. Some experts believe that a persistent and effective long term national development goal is key to realizing fruitful national development outcomes. It is almost impossible for one single government, given the full term of eight years, to achieve meaningful development in the absence of a long-term national focus. This is why successive governments should be committed to continue programmes of their predecessors.

About 7 years ago a Constitution Review Commission was set up to among other things ascertain from the people, their views on the operation of the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution. One issue that stood out phenomenally was the need for long term sustainable approach to national development planning. It is as a result of this among others, that the National Development Planning Commission took a step to solicit for inputs for a long term national development framework, which was supposed to serve as yardstick by which programmes and manifestoes of political parties would be measured. That way, manifestoes would come closer to one other, with the differences being the pace at which one Government wants to develop and how effectively it does so .This is what gave birth to the preparatory process for a 40 year long term national development plan.

Throughout the preparatory stage for the long term plan there were concerns about the form the long term plan should take. Whereas some were of the opinion that a national development framework as long as 40 years stands the risks of violation by successive governments due to fast-changing global trends, others were pessimistic about a plan that is not legally binding. It is in the light of these that some have called for a review of the 40 year National Development Plan. Whatever one’s viewpoint about the 40year National Development plan is, the need for a long tern sustainable national development plan cannot be overemphasized. The National Development Planning Commission which is the national coordinating body responsible for the national development planning system has being doing a yeoman’s job by reviewing development planning records in Ghana as well as the planning experiences of other countries, mindful of the current political context of planning in Ghana where different political parties come to power with specific promises captured in their party manifestos.

There is however the need for strong consensus building in our body politic to ensure all inclusive and holistic development. As we continue to explore ways to achieve a free, just and prosperous society as a nation, there is the need for present and future Governments to have strong collaboration with the National Development Planning Commission to ensure synchronization of development efforts that permeate political barriers.

That is a sure way of ensuring sustainable national development.