The number of COVID – 19 cases is increasing at a faster rate as compared to before and this can only be a warning that it might get worse before it gets better. One major reason is that many confirmed cases have had contact with people before being quarantined or isolated.
Though public gatherings have been banned, schools have been shut down, some markets have been fumigated, borders have been closed, the kind of society and culture we have makes it very easy for the already existing cases to spread.
The leadership displayed by the government in its decisions and actions with regards to handling our current circumstance is commendable. One of those is forcefully quarantining people who were on the last flight that came into the country, this action has reduced the potential gravity of the situation. Though the number of positive COVID - 19 cases recorded amongst them is increasing, it could have been far worse if they had been allowed to mix up with the masses with the idea of practicing self – isolation.
But is it up to the government alone to act accordingly in response to controlling this pandemic?
Civil Society Organisations have a role to play to ease the burden on government and even make the measures have a better effect.
Extensive public education and sensitization: Though there is public education on the current situation and the measures to take to prevent the spread of COVID – 19, there are still several people who do not know what exactly is going or/and what to do. From a little research we have done, there are people who do not believe that the disease exists or is in the country unless they personally see a person with it while there are also people who believe that local drinks and certain concoctions can make them immune to the disease.
NGOs, faith-based groups, professional bodies, philanthropic foundations, traditional leaders, etc must make it a point to take advantage of any opportunity to educate people on what is going on and what they need to do in these times. They must also ensure that they do not instill fear in people which can lead to panic.
Involvement of CSOs in decision making: CSOs are closer to the smaller units of society. This makes them the perfect candidates to help bring issues onboard that are relevant in taking the decision that affect the masses as well as ensure the proper dissemination and implementation of decisions taken. It is also a good opportunity to show that the leaders in government acknowledge the existence and importance of civil society organisations.
Financial support/Donations: It is a no brainer that financial support, no necessarily in cash, can come a long way to help in this situation. Donations to health workers, health centres, other essential service organizations, and their workers will encourage them in the work they do. Similarly, providing support to the underserved who may be going through tough times due to the economic implications of the disease and most especially since there is a scheduled lockdown in some parts of the country.
Health service support: Knowing very well the structure of our health system and even regardless of that, CSOs can provide support. Due to the level of infectivity of the disease and its incubation period, it is advisable not to come into close contact with potential patients but then again providing assistance to people in accessing the right people or places in situations where there may be a potential positive COVID – 19 case particularly during contact tracing is something CSOs can do.
However, all these might not make a remarkable difference if individuals take the health precautions being publicised lightly and they include;
a. Wash hands with soap and under clean running water for twenty seconds frequently (use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and clean running water is unavailable).
b. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
c. Cover your mouth when coughing using the bend of your elbow or tissue (dispose of it immediately after use).
d. Seek medical care if you have fever, cough and difficulty in breathing but call first. (Toll-free number: 112)
e. Practise social distancing. Avoid overly crowded places. Stay at home unless it is very important to step out and if you do, maintain at least one-metre distance between yourself and the next person.
f. Eat a healthy balanced diet to boost the immune system.
g. Get information from trusted sources (Ghana Health Service: 0558439868, 0509497700, www.ghanahealthservice.org/covid19).
Issued: 28th March 2020 in Accra
by the Non - State Actors for Health and Development Ghana.
Editor’s Note: NSA - Ghana is a coalition of non-state actors operating in the health sector in Ghana. This includes NGOs, media, traditional leaders, academic institutions, philanthropic foundations among other relevant bodies. This platform is not a replacement for any existing networks but rather to serve as a very strong coordinating platform for advocacy to ensure that the desired change that society expects from the health sector is achieved. Website: www.nsaghana.com