Flood disasters hampering MDG achievement
By: Helena Selby
The inability of the Ghanaian populace and the government to control the effect of heavy rains during the rainy season makes it evident that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 would be challenged.
For about five years now, the progress of the country is being drawn back during the rainy season, due to the massive destruction caused by heavy rains. The MDGs include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and ensure environmental sustainability might come to a reality in Ghana by 2015.
The failure of the government, and the people to ensure that the heavy rains do not bring in its wake any disasters, has made way for the destruction of livelihoods, property, and the emergence of all kinds of diseases.
The fight of the government to accomplish the MDGs by 2015 is almost in vain, as it has not been able to put in place the necessary interventions to prevent the recurrence of these heavy floods.
Ghana should consider itself a failure in the achievement of the MDGs as 2015 is almost due, and their efforts toward its achievement have not been good enough.
Malaria is one of the commonest diseases in many parts of Africa, including Ghana. It is caused by the bite of the female anopheles mosquito – that is the anopheles gambie, and anopheles fenestus.
According to research, both kinds of mosquitoes breed in water which collects in ponds, potholes, dugout pits, and stagnant water along streams, lakes and rivers.
Malaria transmission is common after the rainy season, as when the rains are not controlled through good drainage systems and sanitation, water collects in indiscriminately disposed of containers, choked gutters and flooded neigbourhoods.
According to records, about 1 million people in Africa die of malaria every year. Almost every Ghanaian has been infected by malaria in one way or the other, however, it is very common among pregnant women and children, which normally results in child and maternal mortality.
In 2007 a report indicates that out of the total 49,154 OPD attendances from January to March, 9,703 were malaria cases, out of which 409 were pregnant women, and 3,824 were children under five years. Moreover, about 45 per cent of the child mortality rate recorded nationwide last year, was caused by malaria.
The President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) is an initiative launched in 2005, and is led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and implemented together with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal of the PMI is to work with partners to halve the burden of malaria on 70 per cent of the population at risk in sub-Saharan Africa, of which Ghana happens to be part of.
The PMI supports four key interventions to prevent and treat malaria, as it is in line with Ghana's national control strategy, and this includes insecticide-treated mosquito nets – that is sleeping under a long-lasting net provides protection from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Indoor residual spraying – that is the timely spraying of the inside walls of houses with insecticides, and intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women and diagnosis and treatment.
The intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women and diagnosis and treatment has in a way been accomplished through the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for every citizen, and the NHIS free maternal healthcare for every pregnant woman in the country, to enable every pregnant woman have unimpeded access to healthcare during and after pregnancy.
Malaria cannot be fully be eradicated from the country, however, the government and the people can help reduce it drastically, if the main root of its spread is rooted out. Research has indicated that mosquitoes, which are the main cause of malaria, breed in stagnant water, especially after the rainy season.
It is therefore the responsibility of the government and the people to try as much as possible to prevent water from being stagnant on the environment. Now that the heavy rains have caused floods in almost every part of the country, it means that the number of stagnant water in the country will increase in number.
In view of this, the number of mosquitoes which will be breeding in these stagnant waters will increase as well, and the next thing to come will be the rapid transmission of malaria by the anopheles mosquitoes.
What will then be the essence of the NHIS and the PMI intentions to combat malaria, as what they are fighting against does not die out, but re-surfaces every time, and comes in a tripled quantity.
The work of the NHIS and PMI will not be visible, as they will be marking time in all their efforts to combat malaria and child mortality, automatically every indication shows that Ghana has failed in the MDGs of combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and child mortality.
The massive destruction by the floods has increased the rate of poverty in the country. The affected people lost their livelihoods and properties, and they have no choice than to start life all over again
Farmlands and businesses that the people rely on for survival, and even the government for revenue, have been affected by the floods. The government and the people should have taken into consideration the rate of destruction caused by the rain during the wet season in 2007 and 2009.
The government seems to forget that a report in 2007 indicated that 12,200.17 hectares of farmlands were destroyed, including 13,800.55 metric tonnes of foodstuff in the northern parts of the country.
The destruction of farmland, crops and the death of livestock created a big problem for the regions, as they were already facing malnutrition, and were only dependent on their lands for survival.
The reports further indicated that due to the floods destroying so many crops before they could be harvested, resulting in the people selling the assets to buy food from the local market at higher prices. As they were not able to harvest their crops, the only option they had was to wait for the next harvest, which was September 2009, and had no choice than to face food shortage for a very long time.
As the government and the people were not able to prevent the floods this year from causing great havoc like it did in the previous years, the probability of history repeating itself is high, besides the rainy season is not yet over.
Even though reports have not yet indicated that history has repeated itself, the destruction of people's property, livelihoods and businesses are enough indication that poverty in the lives of Ghanaians would increase in a way, as many have nothing to live on anymore.
As if that is not enough, the loss of their businesses would lead to their wards dropping out from school, since they would not be able to afford their tuition fees.
The most unfortunate children will be the ones who have their school buildings destroyed by the flood.
They will have no alternative, but to either stay away from school or learn under a shelter which they will have to vacate when the rain begins to fall again.
Ghana is very far away from achieving the MDG's eradication of extreme poverty and hunger and the achievement of universal primary education, as it has not been able to solve problems which will help in its achievement.
Even though Ghana is on the verge of failing in its accomplishment of the MDGs, it should strive hard to make the nation a better place, not for the sake of MDGs accomplishments, but for the sake of being independent and secure in order to prevent disasters, and not always wait for international help.
It will be in the interest of the people and the government if they make things right for themselves, and as Ghana is their motherland, they have nowhere else to go where they will really feel at home.