CategoriesYL4H

HOW COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED DAILY LIVES IN MY COMMUNITY

By: Naana Adiki Manyeyo Adi I, Executive Director AA CommAid Foundation

imageMy name is Naana Adiki Manyeyo Adi I, Queen of the Royal Adibiawe Clan of the Ada Traditional Area in the Greater Accra Region.

I am a Youth Leader for Health and believe in the power of culture and tradition in encouraging behavior change when faced with a public health threat.

The Youth Leaders for Health Program is a joint initiative being implemented by RESULTS UK, WACIHealth, Hope for Future Generations-Ghana, CISMAT-SL (Sierra Leone), and Health Promotion Tanzania-HDT with support from Comic Relief. We are advocates for health system strengthening and increased domestic resources for the eradication of malaria.

My community has moved on gently in the midst of COVID-19. In the past and within my community we have believed in the phrase Together we stand”. This has been taught to us as children and has fostered harmony, peace, selflessness, togetherness, support and development.

This phrase has gone dormant in COVID-19 times.

 

 

Current Life in my Community

The corona virus has managed to move from the small community of Wuhan in China crossing several borders to join us in West Africa, in our communities uninvited. Its spread is very swift and undemocratic with no respect for age, status, gender, race, culture, tradition…

Before this pandemic, I advocated for better health outcomes against equally deadly diseases such as the quick-tempered malaria, the embarrassing tuberculosis, the silent cholera and the irritating dysentery. Need I add the opportunistic cancer?   You help me decide.

Day in day out, the lifestyle in my community has noticeably changed.

  • Many families stay indoors, indirectly gaining rest to boost the body’s immune system. There are empty streets in the community
  • Personal and communal hygiene has improved.
  • Some wear face masks, most don’t.
  • Conversely, community shops and kiosks are struggling with reduced patronage.
  • Prices of goods have skyrocketed at a time that so many people have lost their sources of income.
  • The banking halls have seen fewer visits too.
  • Child labor has reduced drastically. Previously, the streets would be flooded with children selling goods regardless of harsh weather, safety and kidnapping risks.
  • Social and religious programs such as marriage ceremonies, funerals, church service and mosque attendance, parties and others have taken a nosedive.
  • The private performance of some of these programs has saved people so much money.
  • More so, simplicity has taken its proper seat, at least for now.
  • Teenage promiscuity and pregnancy is being controlled effectively as during this time public gatherings where teen girls meet older men are banned

My Role as a Queenmother and Health Advocat

image 1As a Queen Mother, I continue to engage my community in education and information on the virus. I have used tradition and culture in communication to quell misconceptions about COVID-19. And I have explained how a weak immune system due to repeated bouts of malaria and poor nutrition makes us all susceptible to COVID-19.

I visited and shared hand sanitizers through the support of the McDan Foundation. Some of the beneficiaries include G.P.R.T.U’s, Market Women, Hospitals, Police Station, Okada Riders and households.

I have also visited usually ignored and vulnerable slum communities like Osu Kinka We, Bukom, Mudor, Korle Gonnor within the Greater Accra Region and have provided 900 packs of assorted provisions, rice, oil, tea, sardine,

I have also visited usually ignored and vulnerable slum communities like Osu Kinka We, Bukom, Mudor, Korle Gonnor within the Greater Accra Region and have provided 900 packs of assorted provisions, rice, oil, tea, sardine, canned beef, soap, toilet rolls, tomatoes paste, bread, gari and. This gesture was supported by a reputable organization who wants to remain anonymous.

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I continue to work with the District Chief Executive, Hon. Sarah Dugbakie Pobee, in community distribution of Veronica buckets, soap and hand sanitizers and to distribute water using the Fire Truck from the Fire Service Department.  I joined up also with our paramount chief, Nene Djetse Abram Kabu Akuaku III and visited both Ada East and West Districts and toured health facilities where I advocated that malaria should not be forgotten as we fight COVID-19. I have also held conversations with the District Health Director on COVID-19 messaging.

Covid-19 has really emphasized that indeed Health is Wealth. Leaders will have to go back to the drawing board to take a critical look at how and where to place Health System Strengthening in the list of priorities when it comes to Nation Building.

Thank you to my mentor, Dr Sylvia Anie for listening and sharing thoughts.

On this note I end here by saying FIRST THINGS FIRST!!!

CategoriesBlog WACI Health News

The World Needs WHO, Now More Than Ever

15th April 2020.

President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S.—the largest funder of World Health Organization—has
decided to suspend funding to the body in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic is unjustifiable and dangerous.
Now is not the time to reduce WHO resources or any other global health organization in the fight against the virus.
This is the time for the global community to work together. Tackling COVID-19 requires strong international
leadership, guided by a sense of shared responsibility and solidarity. This virus knows no borders and is having a
devastating impact on communities and health systems around the world, causing numerous deaths and untold
disruption.

Now more than ever, the world needs the World Health Organisation.
To echo the words of Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, the World Health Organization is one of the best
investments. WHO is working round the clock to analyse data, provide advice, coordinate with partners, help
countries respond, increase supplies and manage expert networks. The critical work of WHO in stopping this
pandemic cannot be overemphasised. WHO is coordinating scientists, physicians, funders and manufacturers to
help speed up the availability of a vaccine against COVID-19.

WHO is not only fighting COVID-19 but also working to address HIV, TB, malaria, malnutrition, mental health,
polio, measles, Ebola, cancer, diabetes, and many other diseases and conditions.
All attacks on WHO and its Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus are dangerous and will cost
lives.

Now is time for unity. Now is time to save lives.

Rosemary Mburu Ndileka Mandela
Executive Director Founder and CEO
WACI Health Thembekile Mandela Foundation

For and on behalf of:

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CategoriesBlog

When unexpected guest strike in

We were as joyous as a river during the yuletide (Christmas moment), when an unexpected guest strike in.
Tinier than the smallest atom and has put an end to all public functions.
This fierce intruder migrated from the pacific to the Atlantic. Is this the end of age? Or is nature unleashing her rage? Some asked, but the world is still craving for answers

It present with flu, fever, short of breath, pains and pneumonia, Corona virus ( Covid19)🦠 it’s experts called it . Quietly it will make the respiratory tree of mankind it dewelling place . It was first seen in an industrious area now a global pandemic. And our resting places has become cage.

The virus 🦠 is a respecter of non and has infected all Race and region: Africans, Americans, Asians and Europeans, it has no margin or choice over personality.The adoption of wearing face masks, frequent hand washing and physical distancing are some of it preventions they proclaimed. Sadly it has led to the Closure of all international boundaries and coursing global panic and economic drawback in all of the globe.

Even though the world is being faced with this deadly enemy called covid19 we should not ignore other killers that are out there including malaria.

My name Is Ibrahim Shaibu Madie Zaman, a Youth Leader For Health Advocate, a Law and Human Resources student of the university of Sierra Leone 🇸🇱.

I’m call upon all Heads of States, International Organizations, Stakeholders and Communities. To invest more and increase Domestic Funds into the Health Sector and the fight Against malaria. The lives of these children and pregnant women are in our hands let protect and save them from malaria.

It so sad to know that a child die from malaria in every two (2) minutes and about one thousand two hundred (1200) children die due to malaria everyday in the world.

We are the generations that can end malaria but we cannot do it alone, United we stand Together we will excel.
It might be you, it might be me let come together and make the world a better place again.
Zero malaria starts with me.  Let the beat Continue.

CategoriesUncategorized

The cost of inaction: COVID-19-related service disruptions could cause hundreds of thousands of extra deaths from HIV

Gains made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV could be reversed, with new HIV infections among children up by as much as 104%

A modelling group convened by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS has estimated that if efforts are not made to mitigate and overcome interruptions in health services and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy could lead to more than 500 000 extra deaths from AIDS-related illnesses, including from tuberculosis, in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020–2021. In 2018, an estimated 470 000 people died of AIDS-related deaths in the region.

There are many different reasons that could cause services to be interrupted—this modelling exercise makes it clear that communities and partners need to take action now as the impact of a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy could effectively set the clock on AIDS-related deaths back to 2008, when more than 950 000 AIDS-related deaths were observed in the region. And people would continue to die from the disruption in large numbers for at least another five years, with an annual average excess in deaths of 40% over the next half a decade. In addition, HIV service disruptions could also have some impact on HIV incidence in the next year.

“The terrible prospect of half a million more people in Africa dying of AIDS-related illnesses is like stepping back into history,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

“We must read this as a wake-up call to countries to identify ways to sustain all vital health services. For HIV, some countries are already taking important steps, for example ensuring that people can collect bulk packs of treatment, and other essential commodities, including self-testing kits, from drop-off points, which relieves pressure on health services and the health workforce. We must also ensure that global supplies of tests and treatments continue to flow to the countries that need them,” added Dr Tedros.

Read More

CategoriesBlog

African leaders call for immediate action to save additional lives from malaria in the face of COVID-19

11 May 2020 – In response to mounting concerns around the impact of COVID-19 on malaria elimination efforts across the African continent, the African members of the End Malaria Council have released a joint statement and a four-pronged action plan calling on African and global leaders to act quickly to: protect the decades of gains against malaria; boost African purchasing power and local manufacturing of critical medical supplies; continue investments in building an essential health workforce; and, use data to maximize limited resources to save lives.

The End Malaria Council is a committed group of global public sector and business leaders that sees malaria eradication as a critical health and development priority and that drives progress toward eradication by focusing on three key areas: leadership, financing and technology. The signatories of the statement are:

  • H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya and Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance
  • H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania
  • H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia
  • Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive of the Dangote Group
  • Graça Machel, Founder, The Graça Machel Trust and Foundation for Community Development

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners recently published a modelling study which shows that deaths from malaria could double in 2020 if access to life-saving malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services are disrupted. This finding becomes especially concerning as we reach the rainy season in the highest malaria endemic countries across Africa and in India.

Click here to read the statement and action plan or find it below the EMC member quotes:

“I am committed to working with fellow heads of state and government on a coordinated and harmonized response to COVID-19 that stamps out this pandemic while continuing to provide essential health services to our citizens. Nothing is more important than protecting our women, children and men from preventable and treatable diseases like malaria. These efforts will help us to sustain the significant gains that we have made driving down malaria cases and deaths over the past twenty years.” – H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta is the President of Kenya, the Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance and a member of the End Malaria Council.

“To fight COVID-19 effectively and ensure hard-won gains in malaria are not lost, African nations must strengthen essential regional partnerships to develop coordinated and collaborative approaches to support public health systems.” – H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania was the founding Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.  Currently President Kikwete is an ambassador and advocate for regional approaches to health and development on the African continent and a member of the End Malaria Council. 

“Prioritizing frontline health worker safety is a critical investment in the COVID-19 response that will provide short- and long-term benefits. Ensuring these health workers are equipped with the necessary protective equipment, diagnostics and data tools will protect health workers and empower them to interrupt the virus while maintaining life-saving services against existing diseases like malaria.” – H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was President of Liberia during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 is the former Chair of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance. Currently President Sirleaf is the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Health Workforce and a member of the End Malaria Council.

“African governments face challenging resource constraints as they seek to control and respond to COVID-19 but must avoid diverting funds from essential health campaigns that protect the most vulnerable populations, including children and pregnant women. By prioritizing the mobilization of new funding to combat the pandemic, African nations can address the needs of the pandemic without interrupting vital delivery of other life-saving health programs.” – Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive of the Dangote Group, created a private sector coalition to support Nigeria’s COVID-19 response that has mobilized over 25 billion Naira. He is a member of the End Malaria Council. 

“Pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable to infectious diseases, including malaria. It is imperative that we African leaders ramp up our work to sustain safe access to essential health services during this pandemic to support our communities and protect the lives of Africa’s future.” – Graça Machel, Founder, The Graça Machel Trust and the Foundation for Community Development and a member of the End Malaria Council.

Statement: Meeting the Challenge of COVID-19

Five years ago, we drafted Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want, to share our optimism about a prosperous future for Africa’s people, society and economy. Critical to achieving this vision was a sustained focus on ending preventable and treatable diseases, like malaria, within a generation.

For the malaria community, we started off the decade energized by historically low levels of malaria deaths and cases. The Lancet Commission on malaria eradication report released in September 2019 concluded that malaria eradication “is a bold but attainable goal, and a necessary one.” This sharpened our focus on the challenging, but achievable ambition of driving malaria cases and deaths down by 90% by 2030. Our optimism was well-founded, but not without challenges.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic puts our vision in jeopardy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners recently published a modelling study which shows that deaths from malaria could double in 2020 if access to life-saving malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services are disrupted. This finding becomes especially concerning as we reach the rainy season in the highest malaria endemic countries across Africa and in India.

We have an urgent opportunity now to learn from previous disease outbreaks—such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2016— and take swift action to save precious lives, especially children under 5 and pregnant women who are disproportionately impacted by malaria. Taking action now will protect hard won gains to improve standards of health and access to essential health services that have been achieved over the last two decades.

Combatting COVID-19 will require keeping people safe from malaria and maintaining investments that further strengthen health systems, particularly at the sub-national and community levels. Last week, world leaders showed global solidarity in raising more than $8 billion USD to combat the pandemic. We encourage leaders to use this funding in an integrated approach to control COVID-19 while maintaining malaria services as part of essential health packages, routine health services and campaigns. Failing to do so may create a double jeopardy: new deaths from malaria could dwarf the impact of COVID-19, and an upsurge in malaria cases could overwhelm already taxed health systems –compounding the human and economic toll.

To protect millions against COVID-19 and preventable, infectious diseases like malaria, we call on leaders to:

1. Protect the Gains on Malaria

The decades-long effort to increase access to malaria prevention and treatment tools has saved more than seven million lives and continues to save nearly 600,000 lives every year compared to levels in the previous decade. However, these lives are at great risk if anti-malaria campaigns – like mosquito net deliveries, insecticidal spraying initiatives and distribution of seasonal malaria chemoprevention treatment – are discontinued, or if routine testing and treatment services are disrupted.

Partners such as the WHO and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria have recently issued new guidelines on how to safely continue providing life-saving preventive treatments, case management services and on developing social and behavior change programs in the face of COVID-19. We applaud countries that are currently using these guidelines to reach thousands of people at risk with life-saving insecticide-treated mosquito nets, seasonal malaria chemoprevention and indoor residual spraying campaigns. We continue to urge manufacturers of essential malaria commodities, including rapid diagnostic tests and treatments to maintain production to ensure the consistent availability of products. These guidelines are helping our countries to maintain robust malaria programs and encouraging our citizens to seek diagnosis and treatment for malaria at the first sign of symptoms.

It will also be critical to sustain the nearly $3 billion USD in funding provided by countries invested in the global malaria fight to ensure these efforts progress without disruption.

2. Boost African Purchasing Power and Local Manufacturing of Critical Medical Supplies

The WHO estimates that as many as 940 billion pieces of medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) are needed to respond to COVID-19 in major countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recent analysis suggests that less than one third of clinics and health posts in sub-Saharan African have access to PPE and other vital medical supplies they need to address COVID-19. Ten African countries have no ventilators and most face dangerous scarcity.

We are committed to fostering an environment where African countries can produce more of the lifesaving interventions and equipment needed to support response efforts in our nations. Africa needs to move urgently to pool its procurement capacity to increase its buying power on the international market and ensure that African countries aren’t competing with one another, but working in tandem to support mutual efforts. In the medium term, we must boost domestic production capacity and expand national stockpiles to ensure we have the critical equipment we need. This is not just a health security issue, it is a national security issue.

We are pleased to see various international stakeholders – including the WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria – coming together to develop and implement plans to coordinate procurement across Africa and to address the significant problems with the supply chain. These efforts must be accelerated to equip our continent with an integrated and collaborative approach to ending this global pandemic.

3. Build an Essential Health Workforce

Just like COVID-19, malaria does not respect borders and is a disease of poverty that presents as fever, shaking chills, headache and gastrointestinal issues. To effectively fight malaria, many African nations have adopted a regional approach and extended health systems by establishing a network of community health workers (CHWs).

CHWs are often the only access to care for malaria and routine health services and will continue to play a consequential role in saving lives during the response to COVID-19. We urge governments and donors to prioritize these essential frontline health workers, specifically through measures that both protect CHWs, and empower them to interrupt the virus, maintain existing services and shield those most at risk.

In addition to these measures, countries invested in the malaria fight have also been engaged in strengthening primary healthcare clinics and building surveillance and data networks to quickly diagnose and provide treatment. We encourage partners to leverage these capacities to detect and fight COVID-19 on the front lines.

4. Maximize Limited Resources to Save Lives

Malaria does not affect all places equally. Countries should prioritize data and sub-national data analysis to inform how to utilize resources most efficiently. In geographies where malaria is seasonal and COVID-19 cases are increasing, there is a narrow window of time to intervene. Immediate action is necessary to ensure campaigns not only continue, but are targeted to the populations at highest risk. This will help alleviate pressure on health resources that may be needed to treat COVID-19.

CategoriesBlog YL4H

COVID-19 Pandemic: We Need Commitment by All – My Role as a Youth Advocate By: Delight Kwame Siameh (Youth Leader for Health Ghana)

kI come from a village in the Adaklu District in the Volta Region. I work in the Hospitality and Tourism sector and I am a trained youth leader participating in the Youth Leaders for
Health program which comprises 26 trained Youth Leaders across Ghana, Tanzania and Sierra Leone advocating for health systems
strengthening and increased domestic resource allocation to end malaria in Africa.

Presentation and use of hand sanitizer to a lady at Adidome, Central Tongu District

COVID-19 is here with us amidst all other health issues, including malaria which still remains an issue of national, regional and global concern. Various preventive measures and public advocacy by media, youth groups, NGOs and others are in the right direction. However, the expected results can only be achieved if everyone makes it a point to follow preventive measures strictly. In my role as a youth advocate, I have mobilized a group of 15 young people across communities in the Volta region and we routinely sensitise, inform, and educate community members. So far, we have interacted with 520 people over two weeks in the Kpetoe, Adaklu, Keta, Adidome, Anyarko, Hohoe, Sogakope and Ho communities through visits to homes, chop bars, small shops etc. We have conversations on the severity of the impacts of COVID-19 and the importance of  safety protocols.

 

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Health Advocate (right) with community members in Keta.

Each day, it becomes even clearer that behavioural change in the midst of COVID-19 is unpredictable, unsustainable and difficult. Examples:

  • There are people who constantly ensure they keep to the safety and hygiene protocols whilst some remain unconcerned.
  • Some people use mosquito nets to prevent malaria and others refuse to.
  • Some are reluctant to visit health facilities when they feel ill due to the fear of COVID-19.
  • There are already signs of stigma in some communities so that people wearing face masks are regarded as having COVID-19 or as strangers in the community.
  • Some people pick and choose from the various safety measures, based on what works best for them rather than their safety.
  • Some people wear face masks but do not practice social distancing etc.
  • In other areas, many people out of religious beliefs think that they cannot be infected by the virus and therefore see no reason for practicing various preventive measures.

Nevertheless, I believe sustained commitment is key.

The safety of a neighbour is our shared responsibility.

Let’s encourage our communities to carry on with preventive measures. As said by Dr. Peter Bujari, of Tanzania, ‘’Never say you know or have too little to make a difference’’.

My thanks to WACI Health, Results UK, Health Promotion Tanzania-HDT, Hope for Future Generations –Ghana and CISMAT – SL for their support.

Email: delight.siameh@gmail.com

 

CategoriesBlog YL4H

COVID-19: USING MY VOICE AS A HEALTH ADVOCATE; EVERYDAY IS DIFFERENT

COVID-19: USING MY VOICE AS A HEALTH ADVOCATE; EVERYDAY IS DIFFERENT

Author: Lucky Soglo

(Youth Leader for Health, Ghana)

 I am a trained youth leader for health and advocate regularly for increased domestic resources for enhanced malaria responses and health system strengthening. At a recent meeting in Addis Ababa, (Fig 1) we advocated through the Ghana Embassy and African Union for more political commitments towards malaria responses.

2:30am GMT mid-week and I can barely sleep.

I have been awake for the past hour and a half, thinking about global health. I have lost sleep over the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on other public health issues, especially malaria.

 

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Fig 1: Youth leaders for Health Ghana, led by Dr. Anie (seated far right) meeting with Ghana Ambassador to Ethiopia (Her Excellency Amma Twum-Amoah seated in the middle), January 2020

I brace myself for the day ahead especially now that I mostly work from home.  I have decided to spend the entire month of April getting to know what it is like to be a health worker during these times. This means I will be paying visits to various health centers in the Sekondi-Takoradi district within the Western Region of Ghana.

I step out of the house at 8:00am without getting enough sleep.

As I walk past my neighbors, I realize everyone has got a face mask on, from the market trader to the flashy banker. Wonderful. Messaging and advocacy is working here, an area where the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing steadily. Who would take a risk and do otherwise?

My first stop is at the out patients section of the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital, this facility serves as the referral center for the Western Region of Ghana. I meet up with the senior nursing officer on duty. She says to me

 “As hospitals fill up and more and more people get infected daily, medical staffs have to endure long hours, intensifying conditions and the looming fear of contracting the virus themselves”.

“We are at the end of our strength,” adds a doctor who came out of retirement to help at the hospital.

“We do not have sufficient resources and especially staff, because apart from everything else, the staff are beginning to get sick.”

Another nurse tells me “Rev Lucky, it’s not been easy at all, some of us, our own family members are scared to have interactions with us, our husbands are very careful when they are around us”.

 

You can clearly see the struggle these workers go through each day but at the same time you sense commitment and passion as they add their efforts to a national response.

The Senior Nursing Officer tells me, she will do this over and over again, given the chance. Admirable.

I respond to these comments by urging the nurse and doctor to consider malaria interventions concurrent with COVID-19 because immune systems weakened by untreated malaria will struggle more with COVID-19.

Community leaders and chiefs are key stakeholders in our fight against malaria, and so I end my visit at the hospital and decide to do a follow up visit to the traditional leader, the Chief of Apremdo, a community in the Western Region that has recorded high cases of malaria in recent years. We had met earlier in March.

As we navigate through issues regarding malaria, it’s hard not to talk about the impact of COVID-19. At the end of the encounter, I realize the head way I have made, as he sets up a meeting with the malaria focal person in the region. We talk about linkages between COVID-19, malaria and malnutrition and how as he talks to the community he should emphasize good sanitation, hygiene and proper nutrition, and so on to build wellbeing and resilience in these COVID-19 times. He assures me of complying.

It’s around 4:30pm, it’s late and I say goodbye. I feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that I can count on this traditional leader as an ally in health advocacy,  community mobilization and engagement.

I glance at my watch and its 4:45pm and I head home.

Not all days are the same though with this level of success.

A week ago, when I met the Head of the Public Health Division for the region to discuss strategies to address malaria, I was informed the Public Health Unit had suspended all malaria interventions and all attention was focused on COVID-19.

Sadly this is not just a Ghana thing; it’s the current tune the entire world is singing.

In all my interaction I ensure I adhere to all the safety protocols as I ensure social distancing and also I make sure I have my nose mask on, as much as it very uncomfortable sometimes, it’s important to lead by example.

As my COVID-19 journey progresses, I am learning to act like an advocate but think like a virus….what does this mean;

  • Diseases ignore borders. Borders separating countries are meaningless to diseases. While there is the urgent need to act locally there is the danger of failing globally. My voice should cross borders.
  • Distractions are an opportunity to lose sight of real danger and that is what COVID-19 is teaching me. As political dis-engagements and diplomatic spats continue the virus wreaks havoc everywhere. Every minute spent on arguing and blaming is a minute wasted on finding solutions. I will try to be focused at all times.
  • Nothing makes a virus happier than misinformation. Confusing and inconsistent information has characterized this pandemic.  Facts, clarity and consistency of information should drive my work.

I am likely to lose more sleep in my work as a youth leader for health but I am encouraged by allies, influencers and motivators I meet along my journey including the support from Hope for Future Generations.

I will continue to follow up on visits and actions agreed.

I know what it is like to lose hope, so in my life as a health advocate, I aspire to be that thread of hope for someone else.

BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE, I am doing my part, I hope you do too!

CategoriesBlog YL4H

COVID-19: My day as a Youth Leader for Health in a Ghanaian Community

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My name is Jennifer El-Duah.

I am a Youth Leader for Health and currently work as a Lab scientist.  My journey over the last 6 months has given me remarkable experience on how advocacy can change in the arena of a public health threat.

I live in the Bono Region of Ghana in the Sunyani Municipality.  It is 4:50 am and already the distinct Muslim call to prayer can be heard in the distance. And so every day begins. Usually, the rest of the day simply unravels from there.  A quiet prayer, making a list of all the things that need to be done that day, grooming and then you’re out the door-heading to work. Also, one cannot resist the temptation to read news updates from the various outlets. “COVID-19 cases rise”, “Global death toll up”, “Patients tested positive on the run”, “Health workers need PPEs”. This is more than enough to raise anxiety and cause some despair.

All community conversations now dwell on COVID-19. We know from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that a sudden increased demand on fragile health systems can lead to substantial increases in morbidity and mortality from other diseases, including malaria. Now with community spread in Ghana and the similarities between symptoms of COVID-19 and malaria, are people comfortable enough to report to the hospital when ill?

These days, I am inclined to stay in bed for just a few more minutes, dreading the thought of having to ride in a taxi to work. What if someone coughs and doesn’t cover their mouth? What if I touch the very surface that an infected person touched? Who ensures that people wear their masks? Are masks really preventive? There is also the mental effort for me to remember not to touch my face.

My region, Bono region, is one of the few which have not recorded any case of COVID-19. However, this is not something one must be happy about. Complacency is simply a recipe for disaster. As if a disaster is not already happening.  Despite the ban on school, church and public or social gatherings, you still find people chatting and laughing away. We have a long way to go.

After a very uncomfortable taxi cab ride to work, I am faced with yet another hurdle, getting through work while observing all safety protocols.  Truth is, I love what I do.  I walk toward the entrance to work, nodding cheerily to colleagues and careful to stand a safe distance from anyone I stop to chat with. Ordinarily, a hardy handshake would suffice. Then when I make it to the entrance and onward to my department, my work day finally begins. “Jennifer, don’t forget to wear your nose mask” my supervisor usually says. This is a welcome reminder, not that I need it. With my mask firmly fixed on and in my protective apparel, I start to work. While concentrating on what I am doing, I must not rub that itch in my eye.  It takes a second for the itch to crop up and another second for the involuntary response to rub. That’s a mental battle. Did I forget to mention washing my hands at least 10 times while at work?

All day I think of how to advocate for improved health under these conditions.  Can I talk about malaria as well as COVID-19 at the same time? Will people listen?

Finally, it’s 5pm, and I clock out. A girl must eat. I make another taxi trip to the market so I can restock my supplies.  A thought comes to my mind. As wonderful as it is to see so many hand washing stations around, what happens when everyone has to turn the tap with their hands? Are people taught the right way to wash their hands? We must be careful not to turn these stations into coronavirus breeding centers.

Then I find out the price of lime and ginger has shot up. Madam market woman, why? “Lime and ginger mix is very good for fighting coronavirus so people are really buying. They are in high demand”. The less said about that, the better.  The price of tissue paper has also shot up simply because there are hand washing stations everywhere and people need to dry their hands. The good thing is that market vendors are spread apart. You have to walk long distances to get what you want, but it’s worth it.

I get home exhausted, wash my hands and get to cooking and preparing for the next day.  A small voice in my head keeps repeating “these are not ordinary times.”  I am usually glad when I am home. That is where I feel safe and gather my thoughts to face the next day. I cherish the days that I don’t have to go to work. I relish staying indoors and trying some new recipes or reading a few chapters of a good book.

We risk losing the art of socializing. Our culture is based on gathering, touching, embracing, consoling and sharing. Will all that go away? I look forward to the day when wearing masks is not routine and you can give one another a warm hug. I cannot wait for the day we can congregate once again at a place of worship, or attend a flamboyant wedding. Indeed, COVID-19 has even affected the way I dress! I no longer wear watches or bracelets. They get in the way of hand washing.

I also look forward to when I can speak up for better strategies against malaria when I am certain that I have the attention of my audience. Undeniably, the coronavirus has affected everyone’s life.

It laughs in the face of social inequality. This is a fight for all races and gender.  “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself” Henry Ford. Certainly, there is great wisdom in this.

By: Jennifer El-Duah

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