From policy and management perspectives, proper planning is requisite for a successful implementation of a project or a program. When the planning phase is faulty it presupposes that the project or program is bound to fail. Essentially during crisis and epidemics, planners must leave no room for high risks in their planning.
Indeed, many countries both great and small are all in dilemma trying to figure out the best approaches in tackling the spread of the Coronavirus as it ravages like a wildfire. So far, many countries have run out of stockpiles of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and ventilators while funeral homes and hospital morgues can no longer contain corpses. Clearly, it seems as if no government globally have clues as to how to deal with the situation and a sign of unpreparedness is written on every wall. When the virus first struck in China, many political leaders felt it was a Chinese problem. Little did they know it could rattle the planet earth and send healthcare systems and the global economy haywire.
As it panned out, the president of the United States, Donald Trump for instance, even claimed the virus was a hoax and that the liberal media was bent on utilizing it to ruin his re-election fortunes after they failed to get rid of him through impeachment. Unlike in the case of the Ebola virus outbreak that only ravaged some parts of West African countries few years ago, the Coronavirus was bent on wrecking a global havoc. The effects of the virus have brought about social distancing and lockdowns in many countries and cities. Obviously, the global economy has grinded to a temporary halt. There is a glimpse of global recession with many economies bleeding profusely.
The situation in Ghana is no exception. The government of Ghana deserves applauds how it has handled the Coronavirus thus far. The actions taken later to close the international airport, borders with neighboring countries and compulsorily quarantining new arrivals in the country is commendable. Also, the initiatives to put the country under lockdown for two weeks was a great idea. These measures were unfurled to slow down the rapid spread of the virus. Nonetheless, it is imperative noting that if prudent measures were implemented from the start and properly screened travelers at the entry points, it could have mitigated the situation at hand.
While it is significant to commend the government for a great job done so far, it is equally imperative to point out some lapses inherent in the planning leading to the lockdown. I find it problematic the way the lockdown was executed. Apparently, no one should expect the government to be 100% right in the way it is managing the spread of the virus. However, there are some basic aspects of the planning that should have been considered. For instance, the inability to have an alternative plan for the homeless; especially the ‘kayaye’ (head porters) was a huge minus. This group of people are also Ghanaians who have ran from their various towns and villages to seek greener pastures in the cities. In a situation like this one, the only refuge for them is where they came from and will be tempted to relocate in order to avoid the lockdown. This is partly because they have no access to shelter, water, food, Medicare, toilet facilities and could be trapped during the lockdown.
Apart from the head porters, many other Ghanaians are homeless, and others live below the quality of life standards. Three weeks lockdown means a lot to many Ghanaians who will be without food, clean water, and other necessities of life. Many Ghanaians often live on daily visits to the markets to get food stuffs and other essentials. A prolonged lockdown can have dire ramifications as the lack of food and other necessities could kill more Ghanaians than the virus. It is against this backdrop that it behooves the government to have at least provided in its planning, measures that will sustain citizens who fall vulnerable during this crisis. There seem to have been no alternative plan for the vulnerable groups culminating mass exodus of city folks into the villages and towns.
The mainstay of the argument is that since the government failed to incorporate in its planning, the movement of Ghanaians into the towns and villages will come with attendant rippling effects. Although the lockdown was to minimize the spread of the virus, many Ghanaians after hearing the announcement fled to the villages across the country. There are media reports highlighting some of the frustrations some of these vulnerable Ghanaians are going through. It was sad to watch a video from Joy TV, a cargo vehicle transporting nursing mothers and their children, and young women fleeing the lockdown towards the Northern region in a concealed manner and getting stopped on their way by the law enforcement agencies. Notably, it was so pathetic that their vehicle in which they were traveling was impounded and being asked to return to Accra. This unfortunate situation should never have happened in the first place if the government had alternative plan for them.
Arguably, all those running away from the lockdown areas to their villages and towns could be potential carriers of the virus. This implies that the village folks can be infected with the virus. According to reports, what exacerbated the spread of the virus in Italy was attributed to the potential carriers who run to the remote areas to avoid the lockdown. Our government could have leveraged on this information to put immediate structures that will minimize the massive influx of people from the cities to the villages and towns. The eventual consequences, if care not taken is that village folks will be at the mercy of the virus. Unfortunately, the healthcare systems at the towns and villages are in porous state to deal with the situation. Hopefully, this does not happen, else it defeats the purpose of the lockdown to begin with.
While the president, Nana Akuffo Addo found wisdom in inviting church leaders to offer prayers for the nation, he could have also used the occasion to solicit for help from them to open their church doors for the vulnerable. There are thousands of churches and mosques all over the cities that can accommodate the homeless and vulnerable. When this was done, at least those running away would have stayed if they had alternatives. Besides, one will expect the church leaders to lend a helping hand in this dire moment. The churches cannot claim winning souls for Christ when apparently these souls could be lost through the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, the government could have used some of the money earmarked to fight the virus to rent temporary spaces to house those who wanted to stay but have no place. We cannot leave anything to chance fighting this virus that spreads like wild invincible fire.
While it is commendable for the various churches praying and supporting the government and healthcare workers fighting the virus, giving out food, providing shelter and other key rudiments is what is expected of Christ followers. That will mark the essence of our calling as Christians.
Until the Coronavirus exposed the true state of Ghana’s purse, little did we know the government had no reserve or buffer to shoulder the country in times of crisis. One will argue that even the almighty US has been seeking for held during this crisis. Certainly, this is true, however, for Ghana to solely rely on foreign donor funds for which nothing can be done is pathetic. Many times, President Nana Akuffo Addo advocated for self-sustaining measures which is a great idea. Supposing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) did not grant Ghana a loan, does it mean the country had nothing to fight the virus? Our sordid state is unimaginable with all the endowed luxuries of our natural resources. So, what can we be proud of as a country? I do not intend to lay blame at the doorsteps of only the current government because this has been a generational problem and should be dealt with appropriately.
What is obvious is that, since Ghana attained independence over sixty plus years, there haven’t been much serious pragmatic and sustainable policies to ground the economy and put money into citizens pockets. Most of our development agendas have been cut and paste and patching. Elected leaders often resort to temporary solutions in order to gain leverage for re-election instead of building sustainable structures. There overreliance of foreign aid without which nothing is done is troubling. We as Ghanaians really need to join our axes devoid of any political inclination and agree on a lasting national agenda for development. The Coronavirus is a time to reflect on our pitfalls as a nation.
It must also be emphasized that the law enforcement agencies should not take advantage of the situation to abuse those who may break the lockdown rules. There are some videos circulating on social media, although it has been difficult to ascertain their veracity showing some citizens being brutalized by the law enforcement agencies. We have moved away from the era of military rule several decades now. The Constitution of Ghana guarantees that a person shall be deemed innocent until proven guilty. I implore the law enforcement to listen and respect the directive by the Minister of Interior not to molest citizens found breaking the law.
God Bless Our Homeland Ghana.
Writer: Dr. Peter Jackson Wadja
A Ghanaian Resident in the United Stat