Ghanaians have been thrown a challenge to ensure the best and improved Environmental Health and Sanitation practices since most researchers believe it is the best bet and the surest way of minimising the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This came to light at the official launch of the humanitarian community-based response strategy by the Ghana Environmental Health Officers Association (GEHOA) to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the environmental health group, over 70% of OPD attendance to health facilities across the country has been attributed to the poor sanitation and hygiene practices in Ghana.
The President of the GEHOA, Mr. Paul Kwesi Nutsugah Jnr., said apart from COVID-19 which has become topical in the Global disease burden other diseases such as Cerebrospinal meningitis, Malaria, Poliomyelitis, Cholera, and other faeco oral diseases also remain a threat to our very survival.
He also provided a background to the Environmental Health Practice in Ghana and indicated that the Environmental Health Officers' works started from the Ministry of Health but and since 1995 has been part of the Ministry of Local Government and Presently with the Local Government Service.
He emphasised that under the Local Governance Act, Act 936 of 2016 section 14, the Environmental Health Officer is the only health officers working directly under the Local Government Service at the Regional Coordinating Councils and the Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies.
The Initiative dubbed GEHOA COVID 19 NATIONAL HYGIENE PROMOTION INITIATIVE is to embark in a massive engagement of the general public on COVID 19 as part of its responsibility as a mouthpiece of Environmental Health Practitioners in Ghana.
He highlighted ten (10) pillars that underpins the initiative and explained that it will cover;
1. Disseminating of factual information on covid 19
2.Promoting effective hand hygiene with emphasis on handwashing with soap under runing water and using hand sanitizer as a complimentary action and not a substitute.
3.Promoting the strict observance of Social and Physical distancing.
4.Promoting the observance of coughing and sneezing etiquette among the general public.
5.Promoting the activation of Psycho social Support Systems within communities.
6.Promoting dignified and sanitary disposal of the dead and other infectious waste
7.Intensifying inspection for compliance enforcement of all premises
8.Promotion of emergency chemical disinfection of public places and famines.
9.Promoting effective and sustainable partnership with other stakeholders of similar interest.
10. Monitoring Documentation and evaluation of the Initiative.
He also mentioned that the initiative will comply with all directives from the Ministry of Health and in instances where pre recorded jingles will be used, those of the MoH will strictly be used to ensure consistency in the message being circulated.
On the implementation approach, he mentioned Environmental Health Practice who are already performing their front line community based humanitarian service in this times will be the main facilitators of this initiative .
In all, a target of 200,000 houses in communities be targeted in the community sensitization component of the initiative across the country using megaphones and public address system.
In public places such as lorry parks, market centers, landing beaches among others, Community Public Address Systems (CoMPAS) will mainly be used to disseminate information to the general public on the COVID 19. A total of 1000 CoMPAS will be used during the period to reach the targeted audience.
He emphasised that an online application has also been developed for use as a data entry tools after the intervention in addition to stickers that will be pasted on entrance of houses after the sensitization.
On her part the chairperson of the media launch who is the Paramount Queen Mother of the Anomabu Traditional Area, Nana Mbroba Dabo I called on traditional authorities to support the initiatives to ensure that the pandemic is brought under control within the shortest possible time and also advice their subjects against acts of resistance against actions that in the opinion of the MoH has proven to be effective in the prevention of the COVID 19.
Hon Kwamena Duncan, the Central Regional Minister and special guest of honour for the media launch lamented about the low investment made to Environmental Health and Sanitation Management in the various MMDAs and stress that the low investment in the sanitation is what in his opinion contributing to the high disease burden in Ghana.
He suggested to the executives of the Association to engage in advocacy drives with institutions like the Conference of Metropolitan Municipal and District Chief Executives, National Association of Local Government Authorities, Sector Ministries and Regional Co ordinating Councils for the required investments to be made in the area of Environmental Health and Sanitation Management at the decentralised level.
He commended the executives for rising to the call to action and admonished them to Unite all practitioners so they can provide a fomidale force to deal with the challenges affecting Environmental Health and Sanitation Management in Ghana and pledge the support of the government in initiatives such as this and other similar initiatives that ultimately preserve human dignity and promote life expectancy.
He concluded with a call to all stakeholders to ensure this well-intended initiative does not end with the press launch but to take the COVID 19 message to the general public in communities across the length and breadth of the country
Dated 14th April 2020
CWSA Conference Room