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20.11.2008 Health

GHS: We have no records

By Alfred Adams Takoradi - Ghanaian Chronicle

THE Ghana Health Service (GHS) has shockingly disclosed that it has no records on the health status of irregular migrants who come into the country to transact business and engage in other things.

Additionally, it has no records on the number of migrants who have come into our country, and system put in place to cater for their specific needs.

The Western Regional Director of the GHS, Dr. Linda Vanotoo, who made the disclosure during a press briefing on irregular migration and its effects, added that the health risks the irregular migrants posed to the indigenes, were very dangerous.

An irregular migrant is a non-citizen, who has no valid leave (papers) to enter and remain within a particular country. For that reason, as step to curtail the health risk, the GHS has started offering a community health programme, to screen irregular migrants who have come into our country, to ascertain their health status.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was also joining hands with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's) to create awareness about the effects of irregular migration, and offer the opportunity for migrants to access free counseling and testing, to know their HIV-status.

If clients were found positive, they would be introduced to clinics to access care, and also join groups to receive support.

The programme has started from Shama and would be extended to other communities.

The Regional Director told the media that for a start up, the service was targeting to screen about a hundred irregular migrants in our country, as part of measures to reduce the health risk they posed to the indigenes.

This is because, apart from the health risks the irregular migrants posed, the human resource base of our country could be affected if indigenes who would work to develop our country were affected with diseases such as the HIV virus and Hepatitis B, which are common with irregular migrants.

Dr. Vanottoo, who defined migration as a means of breaking away with family, friends and established social networks, noted that people migrated for a number of reasons.

Searching for better life opportunities, protection or escape from war, persecution or for self-actualisation had its attendant challenges and difficulties.

This, she noted, was happening at a time when many countries were ill-prepared to deal with the changing demography, and when policies and attitudes to population movement and migration were hardening.