The world is in crisis engulf in a state of fear and uncertainty all because of the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 pandemic is gradually and systematically putting intense pressure that alters the health care system of nation’s worldwide leading to unprecedented procedures and processes, including restrictive movement, contact tracing and testing, quarantine and lock down in the extreme case. The presence of two testing centres in Ghana provides adequate evidence that the number of people affected will increase than it is today, at least in the short run, plateau, and then steadily decline. In Ghana and most African countries women are disproportionately represented socially, culturally and politically in addition to their mobility and are therefore more likely to be affected compared to their male counterparts. For these reason women, girls and children are to be accorded the highest prominence it deserves throughout the process of identifying the infected or should they come into contact with the virus.
ROLE OF NPC
The National Population Council (NPC) which exists to advise government of Ghana on population and related issues is on the ground supporting efforts at learning and disseminating the right information to the general public in various dialects including those in hard-to-reach areas, canvasing support from individuals, institutions, agencies to donate generously both financially and logistically to the Ghana Health Service help contain the pandemic. It is again recommended that all members of parliament put in place preparedness plan to roll over as the days go by. Support in the form of pharmaceutical supplies, personal protective equipment, hygiene and sanitary items, fuel and community voluntary services will go a long way to augment exiting stock. This call aims at receiving essential supplies that protect health workers and ensure fluid community engagement at multi-level.
As we grieve with those infected and affected in one way or the other by this pandemic, we are happy to point out that the virus cannot be passed on from mother to child through birth or breastfeeding. We are solidly behind the team helping to curb this pandemic from the medical personnel, military, care-workers, drivers to cleaners. Meanwhile, NPC is working with partners to design appropriate key messages devoid of fear, panic and discrimination. These will be disseminated through available communication channels. This is consistent with our broad mandate of providing Population Information Education and Communication (PIEC) to the general public.
IS LOCKDOWN THE ONLY OPTION?
It is strange how some individuals and institutions are quick to prescribe lockdown as the only solution to end this pandemic. Yet none is telling us the nature, scope and duration of this lockdown. It is for this that I personally endorse partial lockdown as opposed to total or complete. In total or complete lockdown one needs to critically examine income levels, the consequences, availability and adequacy of energy, water, food, transportation and banking services on the general population. It is equally important to ensure the availability of a rapid response testing and quarantine centres capable of managing the numbers at regional levels should total lockdown becomes an option. About 22 percent of Ghana’s population practices open defecation (MICS, 2018) with high regional disparities. To this cohort, total lockdown will mean an avenue to ‘shit bomb’ the rest of the population. Partial lockdown may increase panic travelling outside the demarcated areas thereby increasing risk of spread. Personally, total lockdown is not an option in the worst case scenario it should be done with a higher level of complexity.
Controlling covid-19 does not rest only within the ambit of public health specialist as some speculates but on the combine efforts of nutritionist, dieticians, epidemiologists, psychologists, demographers, economist, data and policy analyst, communication experts among others. One important aspect of the control measure is how data gathered is shared and communicated. Data is key to understanding the dynamics, in terms of spread, resource demand and allocation. It also determines the appropriateness of public education, stimulate community surveillance and case management processes. Fear and anxiety will be reduced if data generated is disaggregated by age, sex, location, occupation or marital status. Until it is done we may be jeopardizing the lives of many people including pregnant women and girls who may be in need of clinical or antenatal care but are unsure whether it is safe to visit a health facility.
We are in critical times and its demands critical measures as well as the collective efforts of all including Nananom, media, academia and philanthropist among others to help reduce infection and finally end this pandemic. At the same time let us make conscious effort to donate and or extend a hand of prayer with those in isolation, for together we can kick COVID-19.
National Population Council-W/R