Friday, 13 July 2018

Linking Family Planning to Human Rights

The global community once again marked World Population Day yesterday the 11th of July, to create awareness on the dynamics and trends of the world's population and their implications for the growth of humanity. This year the focus of the global celebration was on the importance of Family Planning as a Human Right issue. Ghana however added another dimension to the theme and concentrated on family planning as an imperative human rights issue for the attainment of sustainable economic development of the country. The UN and experts in population regard human capital as an indispensable resource for the progress of humanity hence advocacy for solution to the challenges that would draw back the development of mankind. Efforts to integrate human rights into reproductive health issues dates back to 1968 when the UN International Conference on Human Rights held in Iran affirmed family planning as human rights for the first time. The Tehran Proclamation advocated that parents had a basic right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children. The 1968 conference also connected human rights to the dignity and worth of the human person. It further advocated the relationship between access to family planning and the status of women.

Over the years the UN has been championing the need to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. This is manifested in the programme of action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing platform for Action as well as the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development. The International body perceives family planning as a key to achieving the sustainable development goals, SDGs, since it has the potential of eradicating extreme poverty, hunger and achieving universal primary education. It can also promote gender equality, empower women and ensure environmental sustainability. It is therefore incumbent on policy makers, families, communities and other major decision makers to make family planning accessible to all who need it. Experts in sexual and reproductive health contend that access to safe, voluntary planning is human rights issue and a key factor for Ghana's economic transformation. It has a strong linkage with sustainable development of the country at all levels. Family planning empowers individuals and couples to decide on the desired number of children, spacing and timing of their birth. It also prevents too early, too frequent, too close and too many births. The experts see it as a catalyst for national development, empowers women, boosts the financial position of the family and also enhances socio-economic growth. It is advocated that better family planning policy has positive effects on the economy, health, education, population growth and agricultural development of the country.

However, Ghana is marking this year's World Population at a time the country had found it difficult controlling her population growth rate. Since 1969 when the country's family planning policy was introduced, the growth rate has remained 3% soaring above 2.5%. This is due to some socio-cultural factors and lack of commitment to family planning issues. The Ghana Health Service annual report for 2016 indicates that even though family planning coverage had increased from 24.4% in 2012 to 33.8% in 2016 there were pockets of reduction in some regions. The Brong-Ahafo region saw a decline from 56.3% coverage in 2014 to 52.3%. The Eastern and Volta regions registered similar declines.

It is about time Ghana paid attention to family planning as a human rights issue and re-position sexual and reproductive health in national development. Improvements in family planning can benefit the economy by improving general health and wellbeing of the people especially women. Access to family planning does not only reduce fertility rate but also high risk births among the adolescents and women. We could achieve this if contraceptive information and services are available in sufficient quantity and variety to accommodate everyone who needs it. The country must ensure that family planning commodities and services are accessible to everyone. Again contraceptive services and information must be provided in a dignified manner respecting both modern medical ethics and culture of the intended target group. Moreover each individual must be empowered to make reproductive choices independently and free from pressure and coercion. More importantly health and education systems, leaders and policy makers must be accountable to the people they serve in an effort to realise the human right to family planning. But above all family planning information must be clearly communicated and scientifically accurate. And the individual seeking family planning information and services must enjoy the right to privacy. Ghana would be able to make better progress towards eradicating poverty, ensuring environmental sustainability, and food security. Government's vision for economic transformation of the country would be a mirage if sexual and reproductive health rights are ignored.


NPP Delegates Conference: Lessons Learnt And Matters Arising

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) has successfully elected its national officers to steer the affairs of the party for the next four years. The election began from the polling stations, constituency, regional and finally to the national level. All the elections went on smoothly without many problems although the chairmanship position was keenly contested and there were a few accusations and counter accusations. One issue of perceived vote buying that has been trending even after the election of the national officers of the party, is the 275 buses for each constituency of the party. The new Chairman, Freddie Blay, who was the acting Chairman prior to the election, said he purchased the buses with a loan facility of 11 million dollars. This has attracted a lot of comments with some people calling for a probe into his financial activities. On the other hand, the new General Secretary, John Boadu also said the buses belong to the party and not Mr Blay although he was the one who brought out the idea for the party to secure the loan to purchase the buses. It is therefore unclear who the owner of the buses is. This is the question the NPP needs to answer to clear the air. However, this mini bus saga did not mar the beauty of the elections. Koforidua, the Eastern Regional Capital, the venue for the NPP conference was awash with campaign posters and party colours. The economy of Koforidua boomed with food vendors making good money. There were reports that hotels in and around the Municipality were all booked. Some of the people who attended the conference had to lodge at hotels in Nkawkaw and Akropong which were far from Koforidua. The Organising Committee, NPP Eastern Regional Executives and the Regional Minister, Eric Kwakye Darfuor should be given thumbs up for a job well done. The Police as usual were deployed to provide security to ensure peace and order. This, they did to the admiration of all. With this show of discipline and respect for each other, it will go a long way to deepen democracy within the party and by extension to the national elections in 2020.

Unlike the NPP national elections in 2014, this one was peaceful and without much problems. However, there are lessons to be learnt from the two elections. In 2014, the aftermath of the election was not the best for the party, it witnessed legal battles as well as suspension of the Chairman and General Secretary. This affected the party greatly but members were able to surmount the challenge and unite to win the 2016 general election with a wide margin. Due to the lessons learnt from the 2014 elections, the main message that run through the speeches was for the members to unite for the 2020 general elections. So far so good, nothing has been heard about disunity in the party though it is early days yet. However it is the hope of all Ghanaians that unity will continue for other parties to emulate. This has deepened the democratic credentials of the party and by extension all Ghanaians. It is the hope that other parties will follow suite to give meaning to the success chalked up by the country in its democracy.


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Need To Take Precautionary Measures At The Onset Of The Rains

After a period of harsh hot weather condition in recent times, it should certainly be a sigh of relief for many with the onset of the rains. A favourable rainfall pattern is good for abundant food supply and water security for domestic, industrial and commercial purposes. Unfortunately when there is a period of torrential rainfall, it has its own attendant problems. Heavy rainfall could even be a bad omen for the farmer who may have prayed for a favourable rainfall for his crops, since rainfall which comes with strong winds can sometimes destroy food crops. One havoc caused by rain that will forever remain indelible in the minds of many Ghanaians is the June 3rd 2015 disaster. What started like any other normal rain ended up leaving in its trail loss of more than 150 lives and the destruction of property worth millions of cedis. If the forecast given by weather experts on the volume of rainfall expected in Ghana this year is anything to go by then we owe it a duty as a Nation to be in readiness to prevent the rains from causing the perennial havoc once again.

In spite of the fact that we are still at the early period of the rains the signal in some parts of the country such as the destruction of facilities at Aduman Senior High School in the Ashanti Region by rains call for concern. Although some efforts have been made in the past to tackle this problem, it is obvious that these perennial problems associated with the rains still persist. It is unfortunate that we have time and time again behaved like the proverbial vulture that always remembers the need to put his house in order only when it is under the mercy of rainstorms.

One fundamental reason behind flooding during the rainy season is the building of structures along water ways which eventually impede water flow. Our poor drainage system can also not escape mentioning as a major cause of flooding. There is the need for pragmatic ways of managing waste to check perennial flooding problem. The Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies together with the Town and Country Planning Department should take stringent measures to get rid of all unauthorized structures built especially on water ways. The national sanitation day instituted as a way of cleaning communities, desilting drains is indeed a step in the right direction and should be sustained with the seriousness it deserves. Another measure which ought to be considered is the need to recycle our plastic waste since recent findings indicate that plastics are the prime cause of choked drains.

The Media, the National Commission on Civic Education and all other stakeholders should not relent in their campaign for the public to desist from dumping refuse in gutters and other unapproved places. Harvesting rain water should also be given a serious thought as a strategy for curbing the excess water that leads to flooding. We should encourage the planting of trees to serve as wind brakes, against destruction of property during rainy season. The Public Works Department, the Town and Country Planning Department and the Building Inspectorate Committee of the Assemblies would also do the nation a great deal of service by ensuring that people do not build on water course for the sake of getting roofs over their head. The rain, like fire, can be a good servant but when not well managed can be a bad master.


Thursday, 5 July 2018

Senior Citizens Day

Sunday, 1st July which is our Republic Day was additionally commemorated as Senior Citizens Day as has been the practice for over a decade now. This Day is intended to recognise and appreciate the contributions of our Senior Citizens, in our case older people, to the development of Ghana over the years.

This, judging from speeches delivered at the annual luncheon hosted by the President of the Republic for selected senior citizens offered the opportunity to outline plans and strategies aimed at improving the well-being of older people in the country. And last Sunday was no exception. Both the speeches of the Vice-President and the Sector Minister assured older people mainly on issues relating to the Aged Bill being passed into law and improving the health status of older people. In 2017, the President at a similar event also promised the institution of a Freedom Pass to ease the transportation challenges faced by older people. All these policy assurances, like previous ones are not out of place. The challenge has always been largely our commitment to pursue the very things we say in these speeches to make life at old age a comfortable one for the Ghanaian.

Observations over the years indicate that we have not been able to carry through these promises – it looks like an occasion for speech-writers to exhibit their skills in attracting clapping from guests at such public events. It was the expectation of observers and other stakeholders that the speech by the Vice-President and even the sector ministry (Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection) would update our Senior Citizens on progress made on the implementation of the Freedom Pass promised by the President in 2017. More promises were rather added to the existing ones yet to be realised. But what can we say – it is well and good.

Older people are encouraged to use all accepted means to demand from government and policy-makers the implementation of promises made in their speeches, including that of the Freedom Pass in 2017, the Aged Bill and improving their health status which among others came out last Sunday at the Luncheon at the State House. The 1992 Constitution made specific demands on the state in relation to improving the well-being of older people in the country. One can for example make reference to Articles 37 (2) (b) and 37 (6) (b) which demands from the state the protection and promotion of the rights of older people as well as the provision of social assistance to enable them maintain a decent standard of living. This means that we cannot continue to regard our older people as recipients of welfare only, but also as holders of rights like all other citizens.

Ramsey Clark, the former Attorney General of the United States of America puts it best - ‘A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you.’ The rights of older people, like the rights of all other people in society are guarantees to being treated by others based on moral, legal and ethical principles that are not dependent on where they live, their age, national or ethnic origin, sex, colour, religion, language or any other status.

We have a duty as a State to curb the rampant violation of the rights of older people in various forms including witchcraft accusation and its attendant physical and psychological abuses meted to them, especially older women. We must improve access to legal aid services by older victims of human rights violations. We need to encourage and facilitate the active participation of older people in decision-making on issues which impact on their well-being. We should stop treating them as a spent-force. Our healthcare services should stop describing the conditions of older people reported at health centres as “old age” due to the lack of specialized training in geriatrics for health workers.

“Old Age” is not a disease. The world is ageing at a faster rate, and the population of developing countries such as ours is ageing the fastest. In Ghana, the absolute numbers of older persons (60 years and above) has been increasing rapidly in recent times due mainly to improved healthcare which has translated into increasing life expectancy; the greatest beneficiaries being women who now enjoy above 63 years life expectancy. The population of older people in Ghana is now estimated to be about 7 per cent of the total population from as low as 5.3 per cent in the 1970s. The indicators are there in our Population and Housing Census Reports - increasing ratio of the elderly to children; increasing median age and life expectancy, among others.

We just need to take appropriate actions to address the issues that impact negatively on the well-being of our older persons. Doing it right now is doing it right for our own future. It is a duty to us and the present generation of older people.

By Ebenezer Adjetey-Sorsey, Executive Director, HelpAge Ghana.

Meeting Between Government And FIFA

During the meeting in Accra last week between government and a three-man FIFA delegation a number of decisions were taken. One decision was that both the Ghana government and FIFA had zero tolerance for corruption. It was also agreed that the Ghana government has the right to use its national laws to stump out corruption and deal with unethical conduct. Again, it was agreed that negotiation was to continue in Zurich, Switzerland to finalise interim arrangements for football activities in the country to continue. As part of effort to resolve the problem, the government went to court to obtain a 10-day injunction to freeze all the activities of GFA as part of moves to dissolve the football body. The action taken by government is not destructive in any way or ill intentioned. Rather, it is to prepare the ground for total transformation of the football body so that the good intentions of FIFA to operate ethically and fairly to all parties can come into fruition.

If any government bans its football body with the motive of flexing political muscles and controlling it in any way it wants, then FIFA has every right to ban the country concerned. In this particular case, however, it is to save a situation where some members of the football administration body, including many referees, are involved in corrupt deals that go contrary to FIFA rules and ethics and fair play. FIFA itself, having watched the Anas video has placed a 90-day ban on Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi. In the light of this, government could not have looked on unconcerned. It is a very dicey situation that needs to be addressed devoid of emotions. At the same time the right thing ought to be done to prove to the world that no one condones corruption in any form. Going to court for the injunction shows that it is not the intention of government to flex its muscles in an autocratic manner but in a democratic way to ensure fairness. The issue at stake will serve as a test case for FIFA itself and all its affiliate associations throughout the world so it must be handled well to forestall any problem. If, at the initial stages, government had looked on unconcerned, corruption in the administration of football would have continued and there would be no fairness to all participating clubs in the country. At the same time if government had intervened to restructure the GFA, FIFA may take it to mean that the government has taken over football administration.

Thus, the issue must be handled so well that it will not adversely affect the country in any way that would go against the game of football which is the passion of the nation. It is good that the government has shown concern about the rot in the GFA. Therefore, FIFA is expected to support the government of Ghana to clean the entire system of football administration in the country.

Fair play in competitive football is the needed hallmark or yardstick for all tournaments, whether at the sub-district, regional, national or international level. FIFA and its affiliate institutions stand for fair play and ethical conduct in all football tournaments so it should support Ghana to reform the GFA for the better, especially in the face of the documentary evidence against the GFA President and other officials in the country.


National Guidelines Policy Document on Sanitation


The Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources recently launched the national guideline policy document targeting the pro-poor and vulnerable for sanitation services. The document is another important step by the Ministry to tackle head on, the sanitation challenges in the country especially, the issue of open defecation. It also demonstrates the Ministry's commitment in fulfilling the facilitation of the provision of infrastructure in the WASH Sector for Ghanaians. One of the key reasons espoused by the President for establishing the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources was for the Ministry to formulate the necessary policies, coordinate and supervise the implementation of policy programme in the WASH Sector to attain the Sustainable Development Goals with particular reference to target six (6) by the year 2030. The vision of the President also includes making Accra the neatest and cleanest city in Africa by 2020 and to make Ghana one of the most attractive tourism destination countries in Africa and beyond. The low sanitation access rate in the country is a threat to the socio-economic development of the country. The Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources seeks to enhance the provision of infrastructure including household and institutional toilet facilities for every Ghanaian. It is in this regard that the guideline policy document targets the poor and the vulnerable who are financially challenged and cannot provide such facilities. This makes them resort to the practice of open defecation. The guideline is expected to ensure equity, inclusion and sustainability and to provide direction for stakeholders to properly target the poor and vulnerable for the provision of toilet facilities without undermining community's capacity to build their own. It is important for activities in the WASH Sector would ensure harmonization for collective actions and contribute to national efforts in attaining the Sustainable Development Goal on sanitation and hygiene.

We need to encourage Community–Led Total Sanitation approach for the entry point to target the poor and vulnerable individuals and household within the communities. It was refreshing when the Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources Joseph Kofi Adda at the launch of the guideline document stated that the Ministry has secured an additional financing of forty-five million dollars from the World Bank under the Sustainable Rural and Sanitation Project. This should help accelerate the country's programmes and activities in the WASH Sector to bring relief to the poor and the vulnerable. One therefore commends the support the Ministry has enjoyed from Development Partners and Stakeholders since its establishment.

The task ahead is not easy, looking at the statistics by the Joint Monitoring Research Report by the World Bank and UNICEF which indicates that only fourteen percent (14%) of Ghanaians have access to basic sanitation while nineteen percent (19%) practice open defecation. The effect of the poor and unhealthy sanitation on Ghanaians can be seen in low productivity as a result of ill health of the people, huge expenditure on government budget on the treatment of sanitation related diseases, poor patronage of the tourism sector, low revenue returns among others. It is sad for the country to continue to lose 290 million dollars yearly on sanitation related issues. Effective implementation of the guideline must help to reverse this state of affairs, and this calls for change in behaviours and attitude towards poor environmental practices, and should be backed with the strict enforcement of the laws. We all have a role to play to stop open defecation and indiscriminate littering, to ensure a sustainable clean environment which will support the national collective vision to attain the Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.



Lives lost, properties destroyed and then the Decision-Makers get in a helicopter to fly over Accra to survey the extent of devastation.

Surely, it will end there just like the proverbial vulture that pretends to be concerned about its place of abode at the onset of the rains only to get back to other things till the next rain.

This annual ritual that has gone on for many years without any solution in sight and the apparent repeat of the usual thing, should raise concerns among Ghanaians.

When will Accra be free of the perennial flooding? Do we have Engineers and leaders with a determination to find solutions to this annual event? Whenever it rains heavily, Accra gets flooded and it is repeated over and over again, irrespective of which party is in power.

Politicians will fly over the City, drive in flashy, expensive cars and make empty promises about stopping the problem. Then we return to business as usual.

When the city dries up, people will continue to build in water-ways, throw waste into gutters and all over the place and streams will get choked with sand and rubbish.

The open gutters that are either too small or choked with rubbish become no match against the rain water and the result is what we all know.

Is there an answer? Are our leaders and engineers equipped to solve this problem? Are we willing to obey the rules and take measures to end the floods of Accra and other parts of the country?

Answers to these questions would surely give us a clue on whether we are serious or joking with our own destiny. If we cannot care so much about the lives that are lost to flooding, then we are a bunch of unserious people.

In some other jurisdictions, officers mandated to take care of such sectors of our lives, would either be resigning or having their appointment terminated.

Salaries go with output and those feeding on taxpayers’ monies must be made accountable to the people.

Thus, city authorities ought to be questioned over their stewardship and failure to change the trend that they are employed to stop.

Isn’t it surprising that, though we have laws and bylaws on the protection of our environment, especially drains and water bodies, the incidence of dumping refuse and other solid wastes into our drains, goes on with sheer abandon.

It is time we took the bull by the horns to nib this unacceptable ritual in the bud to save lives and property.

Predictably, if nothing is done about this nuisance, one day we would have no other scenario than a rampaging youth taking the law in their own hands to salvage their destiny.

As was reported in the media, some angry residents of Teshie Rasta road in Accra blocked the Rasta Main Bridge where the late, Dr. Aya Hayfron, a medical doctor was swept away by last Monday night’s downpour.

According to the residents, until the authorities concerned came to completely rehabilitate the bridge, they weren’t going to allow motorists to use it.

They burned old car tires and heaped broken blocks on the bridge to prevent vehicles from crossing.

This should serve as a warning signal to our authorities that, some day, we might wake up rather too late to find a chaotic case of the people expressing their disgust at the irresponsibility through uncontrollable rage.

The lack of planning and resolute attempt at making Accra and other parts of the country free from the scourge of floods must become a thing of the past and those in authority ought to wake up to their responsibilities or leave the scene for committed people to take over.

As a solution, a timetable should be set immediately to rigorously and vigorously clear all buildings in waterways and desilt all drains of filth.

Though it may not assume the format of the revolution days, it should be without fear, favor or political consideration.

The cosmetic ritual approach to the flooding must stop and the time is now. We can’t play the vulture all the time.