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23 May 2009 | Feature Article


By Desmond Ayim-Aboagye
In any country the health sector comes first on the top of the agenda for the government; as such the authorities make it their priority to make health care issues a matter of importance. Luckily enough in Ghana, the efforts of the previous governments as well as the present one have laid a solid foundation for National Health Insurance to function better in Modern Ghana. Such strenuous steps taken already show that the Ghanaian government means business on its effort to make health care affordable to the majority of the working people. It seems obvious then that good plans are on the way to enable those that have no gainful employment to also enjoy modern health care services in the country.

The health sector is important because without this the nation may not be able to care for its citizens that need to be healthy in order to take adequate responsibilities in the country. Parents need their health guaranteed to be able to take care of their children. The Army, as well as many other people that are in the essential professions need to be constantly checking up to ensure that Ghana has healthy professionals that are minding their businesses in the country. It is because of this that I consider it important that Ghana should embark on industrialisation of the pharmaceutical industries, to be capable of meeting the needs of domestic consumption and, furthermore, to export to other neighbouring countries.

As one travels abroad, it does not take long to discover that all the bigger countries as well as the smaller countries are involved in producing some pharmaceutical drugs for their citizens and also export some to other countries. They may then import some more from other neighbouring countries to supplement their own production at home. I think the reason that lies behind the establishment of these industries even by countries with smaller populations such as Denmark and Holland, is that there used to many wars, which posed a threat to these smaller nations. And since the health of the majority of the population is very essential for the survival of the nation, then, it was important that the nation could prepare itself in case of major war or disease epidemic they could rely on their own efforts to cure themselves. Now, it seems such threat of major war ensuing nowadays is very unlikely but still if we were to survive as an industrial nation, then, such bold attempt to produce our own pharmaceutical drugs in these pharmaceutical industries we intend to build is vital. In our attempt to do just that we need to consider those pharmaceutical drugs that cure diseases that are prevalently seen as infecting our citizens in the big cities as well as urban cities and the smaller villages around the country. These should not become a problem as there are many medicinal plants already found in the forests in Ghana. Moreover, since we have tropical rainforests then it should be possible for us to make plantations of some of these useful trees and herbs that should enable us to manufacture as many pharmaceutical drugs or variety of drugs in the country.

We are capable of making this bold attempt to manufacture certain pharmaceutical drugs for domestic as well as for export because we have adequate resources in the country. The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and other minor Secondary Technical Schools in the country are science institutions where research into some of these drugs could be conducted. There are also other private institutions abroad that may be willing to collaborate with these government institutions named above. Furthermore, there are many scientists abroad that are of Ghanaian origin who could be employed to come and work at home to assist in the establishment of these medical industries. This means that we can already team up with friendly nations such as Germany and China as mentor nations that are clever in the production of a variety of these pharmaceutical drugs in their countries. But as mentioned already, since we are more concerned with those diseases that are often reported among the Ghanaian patients, then, we should make it a point to begin first the production of these drugs in the industries to be established here in Ghana.

We must also learn to integrate those effective traditional medicines that have been produced commercially into the medicinal drugs in the country. There are already many of these industries which have been working hand in hand through collaboration with some universities in the UK, such as the University of London. These herbalists are clever concerning certain drugs that are effective but cheap in producing in the country for our domestic use. The production of these medicines to supplement the ones to be manufactured by private entrepreneurs and the government alike shall boost the pharmaceutical industries in Ghana that could supply the countries in West Africa large quantity of their pharmaceutical drugs. Additional knowledge of these traditional herbs and medicines could be sought from many of these traditional healers who have outnumbered the mainstream biomedical doctors who are under-represented in the country since the nation got independence from the colonial rule.

Ghana could also export some health and medicinal plants if we grow them in quantity in the country. They could be used as research sites where foreign researchers could come and conduct their own research about tropical medicines. This happens in Kenya and some East African countries, where researchers come regularly to conduct research about plants. This would offer Ghana prestige concerning the use of the rain forests to attract foreign researchers into the country.

One area where some important works need to be accomplished is the protecting of the big cities in Ghana so that environmental health in these cities could be made better and enjoyable to live and conduct business. Some countries in the Far East, especially Bangladesh, that embarked upon the programme of mosquitoes' eradication some few years ago had been capable of almost eradicating malarial disease from their midst. These countries in Far East considered those major cities as the right places to begin with to tackle the problem of malaria in their country. First of all, they began by purchasing some helicopters (a round 2 in the case of Ghana) for the health sector and once or twice every month they sprayed in the air of the most important cities with insecticides that killed the mosquitoes. This spraying in the air in the big cities every 1 or 2 times per month made sure that those mosquitoes that were already hatched could be killed. Then later they employed health workers whom 1 or 2 times per month they went around these cities and sprayed the areas where they had standing waters or bushes that could breed these deadly mosquitoes. It appeared that by doing this they could reduce the number of people that usually get malaria and it is estimated that soon after the inception of this programme no one in the country had reported the infection of malaria. This is something that the authorities in the big cities such as Kumasi and Accra should consider doing. They could for instance contact the Embassy of Bangladesh and find out more about this programme which had helped one of the most populated regions on the earth to avoid being plagued always with malaria.

This programme mentioned above sounds the warning that we should cover all the gutters lying in the big cities as has been done in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa. There are many masons and contractors who are looking for work to be done so that we should allow these individuals to get these jobs and do them. We should introduce what is practised in Germany and elsewhere that someone that leaves litters around as she/he is passing by or sitting around could be reported and receives a fine for doing that. This could keep the city clean. But in Sweden, the refuse and litters made in Uppsala City produce the electricity we use in our homes. Many countries in the East Africa had been here to learn about the technology, which is not difficult at all. If the refuse in Accra were to be burnt to produce electricity to supplement the one produced by the nations' electricity power supply, it could relieve the Akosombo Dam to be capable of exporting more of its electricity it produces there to other countries for additional revenue.

Finally, it could be said that the health sector is very important for the nation. The time has come when we must produce our own pharmaceutical drugs to enable us to become independent or supplement them with what we import from other countries. Any nation that intend to industrialise make it their priority to manufacture certain drugs that are needed much at home so that when they experience epidemic they should be in a good position to treat their own citizens quickly before help comes from abroad. It is high time we made our environment clean by covering all our big gutters in the cities so as to reduce the number of diseases we unnecessarily suffer at home.