Trials, Cathedrals and the Court of Public Opinion: Who is still standing?

Just like everyone else, one day I woke up to the news that a number of banks have had their licences revoked (Capital Bank and UT Bank inclusive). So I asked myself, did the auditors and the Bank of Ghana also go to sleep? If not, how did we get here and why did we not prevent ourselves from accruing more debt in the form of Ghc1.4billion that was given as monetary salvation for these now fallen banks?

Yes, I know. We all have so many unanswered questions. This issue serves as a real eye-opener for us and brings to light the fact we must begin to question the nature of the auditing that is done here. I find it unjustifiable that some of these banks had their licences obtained by false pretenses yet they were still allowed to operate for years; but this is only one part of the problem. The story has just begun.

As a leader or shareholder in a company, whenever there are benefits or accolades, those at the forefront of leadership receive the awards (most of the time). In the same way, if there are any losses or backlash for any decision, they will bear the brunt and responsibility must be taken.

This is not the first time someone is alleged to have embezzled or mismanaged such a huge sum of money so what is different now and why does everyone seem to be talking or trying to shut those who are talking up? We will soon find out.

Plans are being made to build a National Cathedral which will lead to several buildings like Scholarship Secretariat, Passport office and some bungalows for Judges being demolished. If we were playing a game of chess, we would technically be at our financial checkmate so why plunge ourselves into further debt?

Ever since I was old enough to analyze the news, I have always heard that we were in one debt or the other and at a point, we even had to be part of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (popularly called HIPC).

I can’t be convinced that anything has changed looking at the Ghc142.5 billion debt (as at December 2017) with a high tax rate making the cost of living in the country somewhat unbearable for the ordinary Ghanaian. Winston Churchill definitely knew what he was talking about when he said: “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

So why aren’t people outraged by this National Cathedral plan since it is clearly not the right move considering where we are, financially as a nation? Where are the think tanks, the economists and all the pressure groups? Why are people silent?

The answer lies in the fact that the collapse of Capital Bank and the erection of the National Cathedral have one thing in common- Religion.

Karl Marx, a German philosopher and economist, once wrote “Die Religion…ist das Opium des Volkes” which translates in English to Religion is the opium of the people.  A quick look at opium and why Marx might have likened it to religion.  Opium is a narcotic drug obtained from the unripe seedpods of the opium poppy which was used medically as a painkiller for centuries. Though opium does its job as a painkiller, it can be very addictive and destructive when abused.  Marx believed that just like this drug, religion also had a similar function which was to reduce the suffering of people so that they would not give up on life. However, he believed this was made so in order to blind society from seeing the class structure and oppression that were necessary to initiate a revolution. In short, it is difficult to come between someone and their religion; this is what we are seeing in these two cases.

Just like many other Christians, I have taken some lessons from and listened to Pastor Mensa Otabil’s preachings ever since I was a little girl. I am not one to swallow everything I hear hook, line and sinker so I do some research myself whenever I come across something new.

Aside being a Pastor, Mensa Otabil also serves as the Board Chairman of the collapsed Capital Bank. When the issue of alleged mismanagement/embezzlement of the bailout funds to  Capital Bank came to the fore, I was not surprised when some people decided to hail insults on anyone who dared to question the facts of the matter with some congregations being told to shut up  as Christians when it comes to this particular issue.

Yes, God is good. That is why he put brains in our heads to think, analyse and have opinions of our own. If Pastor Mensa Otabil were an ordinary man, he would still be criticized but the difference is there might not be so much of an uproar from Christians.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying he did what he is alleged to have done because I cannot say a man is guilty without fair trial. I am only saying that if indeed there was an issue with regard to how the funds were managed, he should not be excluded from trial and scrutiny because no one should be put above the law.

I have been sitting like a spectator and watching as events unfold but the match is getting heated and it looks like team Ghana is losing, so I am now standing.

So as a citizen and member of the court of public opinion, I stand with the law on this. Regardless of a person’s social status, the law should be allowed to take its course.

With regard to the Cathedral, I would like to leave this poem by the late Prof Kofi Awonoor which happens to be one of my favourites. Enjoy.

“THE CATHEDRAL

On this dirty patch

a tree once stood

shedding incense on the infant corn;

its boughs stretched across a heaven

brightened by the last fires of a tribe.

They sent surveyors and builders

who cut that tree

planting in its place

a huge senseless cathedral of doom.”

By : Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

 

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Number 12 : The skullduggery and Kwesi Nyantakyi’s ‘Abacus’

Anas-new-expose-2-696x919

If you thought the Judges’ exposé (Ghana In the Eyes of God) was jaw-dropping, then this one is more than mind-boggling and it definitely rocked the world of football and posed questions on what is left of its integrity.

The shock of what I saw on June 6th while sitting in the auditorium of the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) has left me so astonished that I am now finding my words.  But before we delve into the core of the matter, let’s go through some of the excerpts towards the build-up of the premiere.

There have been some allegations made by several people with regard to corruption within the Ghana Football Association (GFA) in the past. However, these claims have been vehemently denied by the GFA president (Kwesi Nyantakyi). He even went further to promise a huge amount of money to anyone who is able to come forward with evidence to support the claims. His plan to take over the whole of Ghana was brewing but little did he know that his cup would be full one day.

As the former United Nations Secretary-General (Kofi Annan) said in the promotional video for the premiere: “Sometimes it takes a spark, just a spark… and I think Anas has provided that spark for the whole edifice to blow up…for people to wake up and say: ‘NO MORE! Something has to be done!’

The ace investigative journalist has done it again and I hope Kwesi Nyantakyi got the evidence he wanted.

Several other prominent figures like Ex-President H.E John Dramani Mahama, J.A Kuffuor and the current Vice President of Ghana – Dr. Bawumia, all spoke against the rot in the GFA as seen in the short promotional videos.

Then came a very interesting video of a man collecting bundles of money in an envelope who came prepared with several pockets in his coat and trousers which seemed like they were tailored for the money to fit. This gave rise to the ‘Eddie Doku challenge’ where a guy dressed up similarly to collect money and did well to return the crumpled but empty envelope to its sender just like he saw the originator do. Eddie Doku is Greater Accra Regional Chairman for the GFA.

Then, the video of Kwesi Nyantakyi saying he will take over Ghana one day ‘crowned’ it all.

June 6th or ‘Anas Day’ (as some will call it) finally arrived. Probably the first time a premiere is going to be shown when the actors are not happy to be on screen.

As expected, the venue was packed and as at 1pm, the queue had reached the street (beyond the gate) for a programme that was to begin at 3pm.

Several referees were caught on camera allegedly receiving bribes for as low as Ghc200 and as high as Ghc2000; selling out the ethics of the game and betraying the trust of its supporters.

There were others in positions of power who promised people visas and took ‘gifts’ in exchange.

Kwesi Nyantakyi is also seen to be packing a total of $65000 in his gift bag after which he utters his profuse thank yous, calling the ‘investor’  his brother and tells him to search for him on google. The deal was to create a company (NAMAX) that would receive 20 to 25% as a fee from the GFA and there were also some prospects of money laundering insinuated. He went further to draft a Memorandum of Understanding with the speed of lightning to secure the deal.

If you thought you had seen it all, the story is not done. Kwesi Nyantakyi is seen saying that everybody needs to be sorted out hierarchically and utilizes his Math as though he were using an Abacus to do some swift calculations: “ 5 + 3, 8 + 2, 10 + 1, 11 and another 1,”; coming up with a huge sum of  $12million.

Not forgetting the roaring crowd when they heard Kennedy Agyapong’s name uttered by Kwesi Nyantakyi. A little history: Mr. Kennedy Agyapong leveled all kinds of unproven accusations against Mr.Anas and tried to throw sand in our eyes all in a bid to halt the premiere which proved futile.

 

 Scandal of our time

However, the most frequently asked question concerning investigative journalism is ethics and the issue of inducement; the explanation is that both the giver and receiver are guilty of corruption.

Here’s my point of view – there are always going to be questions of ethics and compromises but the bigger question here is : “Could these people be caught by any other means or method apart from this?” If the answer is no or highly unlikely, then your guess is as good as mine and we are better off siding with Mr.Anas who says : “Extreme diseases call for extreme remedies”.

The Ghana Football Association may or may not be dissolved by the government but whichever way it turns out, we risk a ban from FIFA for interference and corruption by those who were once regarded to keep it sacred. In my opinion, I think it is in our best interest to dissolve the organization and rebuild despite a possible ban from FIFA which might happen anyway.

The scenes from this exposé broke many hearts; many dreams have been shattered from the greed of the people in power with some clubs even going into relegation but it is heart-warming to know that there were still a few principled people who stuck to their guns and rejected the bribe. If you talk about induction, all of them may have been presented with the same opportunity to betray the game but they chose principle over expedience.

For someone to put his life on the line to ensure that the wheels of justice get the chance to grind, it means that Ghana has a national treasure we must protect – his name is Anas Aremeyaw Anas.

Ignore racist adverts with the contempt they deserve

Source: Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

I am not about to write anything new. And I know you might have questions about why I am bringing this up now since it is not a trending topic. The answer lies right there in the sentence – this article is all about trends just that this one, in particular, is ‘one of a kind’.

Let me delve into a little history before we proceed. Racism has been going on for centuries, it’s still happening but as to whether it will ever end, I do not know. What I do know is a trend in the world of advertisement that I would like to draw our attention to.

Dove did it when they decided to advertise their body-wash by portraying a black girl removing her dark clothes to unveil a white girl with lighter coloured clothes; a similar thing happened with a Chinese advert in 2016 which showed a man of colour being ‘white-washed’ by a detergent.

Then Nivea came along with the “White is Purity” deodorant advert and also erected a billboard in Ghana with the inscription “For visibly clearer skin” in relation to a cream they wanted to promote. This led to a laudable move by Fuse ODG and the #NiveaPullItDown campaign causing a new billboard to be erected replacing the old one.

Remember the Play station Portable advert that said “White is coming” which showed a light skinned girl in white clothes gripping the jaw of a dark-skinned girl in dark clothes? Well, I agree with you that it was long ago in 2006 but this is to emphasize the point that this form of advertisement did not start now.

Then there was an Amazon clothing site where there was a white child in a top with an inscription “Slavery gets shit done”.

Oh! Not forgetting the famous H&M scandal that showed a black child wearing a green sweatshirt with an inscription “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”. This caught the attention of  the public including celebrities and generated a lot of controversies with counter-inscriptions like : “Coolest King in the World/King of the world etc.”

So what do all these companies have in common? They must be some ‘smart’ people to know that the market of advertisement deals on the principles regarding what is able to trend and what is not. In their eyes, trending is their ultimate goal and it looks like they desire to achieve that by hook or crook (via good or bad publicity).  I would like to call this form of advertisement “Instigative advertisement.” The rationale is to trend for as long as possible by generating conversation and eventually causing an uproar.

Did they succeed? Well, unfortunately I am afraid they did when they got people on virtually all social media platforms (especially Twitter) and TV show hosts having discussions on the matter. Other companies also tried this; some of these companies were not known but as soon as they did something similar, they became the most-talked-about entity worldwide.

The second thing they all have in common is apologising after the deed is done. Apologies are good but what’s the essence if you are going to do it again?

So here’s my view on all this hullabaloo. I think we should avoid (as much as possible) giving publicity to companies that decide to indulge in these things by completely ignoring them with all the contempt they deserve. Yes, we’ve seen it but we won’t give you the response you are expecting.

Alternatively, we could also adopt the Fuse ODG style of trying to change these things by taking action and not just by talking. It is very important that in as much as we would not like to give these companies the popularity they seek, we must also not allow these toxic adverts to infiltrate the minds of our children and make the black race seem inferior.

In this case, keeping silent might be an unpopular opinion but if speaking about it means making the notorious popular then we must accompany it with action to de-popularise the notorious.

By : Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

naabd61@yahoo.com

Mapping the filling stations likely to be the killing stations in Accra, Tamale

Source: Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane
Date: 30-12-2017 Time: 10:12:15:pm

Many lives have been lost to gas explosions and wrong siting of filling stations. Dozens have been scarred for the rest of their lives and their only crime was to have been found close to a gas filling station either buying the product or just passing by.

I have watched from afar and with a broken heart, many of these, preventable, unpleasant events and I have been thinking about what I can do to salvage the situation. This is my proposal to solving this ticking ‘time bombs’ sited close to many houses. But before I do that, take a walk with me as I share this story my mother told me.

In the late 90s, there was this man named Salifu Amankwaah who worked as the head of the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Sanitation Task Force. The first time I heard his name was during the BBC Debate at Alisa Hotel during the June 3 Flood and Fire Disaster. What was so special about this man?” I asked my mother (when I got home). In her own words: “During this man’s era, you dare not throw even a chewing stick anywhere near the Holy Gardens. Circle was so clean it became a place of relaxation with benches.”

Sounds like Utopia to me; Circle was once Paradise? So I asked myself! “What happened and why did it change so much? What was Salifu Amankwaah doing that made his reign as a Task Force Head so memorable?”


But why must we be beaten to do the right thing? The truth is most people do the right thing when they know someone is watching and will sanction them if they do the wrong thing. Beating is clearly unacceptable in our current dispensation where rights of criminals are just as important as the rights of saints. 
Here’s what I was told: “He had a no nonsense attitude and zero tolerance for anyone who tried to flout the sanitation rules at the Holy Gardens. Even though we were and still are a lawless lot, many Ghanaians feared the sanctions that came with breaking the rules, and Amankwaah was ruthless in applying the sanctions when the rules are broken. So nobody dared to disobey. Anyone who was caught littering or doing anything that was not in accordance with the rules of the place would be beaten and made to sweep the place the next day.” I agree this was so drastic but it worked during that era and that’s what kept the place cleaner and holier than it had ever been.

What lessons can be drawn from the Salifu Amankwaah story? This means that it is highly possible that Circle, now referred to as ‘Ghana-Dubai’ could return to its once glorious state but not without our help. Not only did Salifu Amankwaah’s work, keep the city clean, it also prevented certain disasters like flood that may have occurred as a result of choked gutters.

That’s the reason for this particular article.  We can use the Salifu Amankwaah theory to solve our gas disasters and the siting of our filling stations.

I have tried my best to assist with spot maps I have created from certain parts of the country where I believe have improperly sited filling stations (filling stations that are too close to settlements or too close to each other).  According to the National Petroleum Authority, filling stations are supposed to be at least 30.8m or 100feet away from residential areas and 500m apart from each other. Some of these filling stations have restaurants and shops in and around them.

These laws notwithstanding, many of the filling stations sited are flagrant violations of the law. Some of these stations do have permits and how they got these permits is still something that beats my imagination. The NPA must use the Salifu Amankwaah high handed theory and shut down all illegally sited filling stations before they ‘shut’ the lives of innocent citizens.

I like to call this and subsequent articles – ‘Chronicles’ because I intend to cover each major city that has this problem. I believe this will help the NPA in identifying which of the filling stations are improperly sited (in case this has not already been done) and there would be no excuse not to monitor because their attention has been drawn to it.

Once these stations have been sighted, the regulators can better determine if they have been wrongly sited and when that is done, the law enforcement agencies must apply the law ruthlessly like Salifu Amankwaah did. I believe this will take care of who has rights to remain there and who would be required to leave for safety because as it stands now, there aren’t any specific sanctions for people who flout these filling station regulations.

37 Area with the Golden Tulip Hotel sandwiched between two filling stations. There is another filling station opposite.

I would also like to draw our attention to certain practices that are dangerous and must be brought to an immediate halt if we indeed want to curb this menace. There is an advent of certain gas cylinders that have their burners directly on top which pose a serious threat; in case the gas leaks, there could easily be an explosion. Also, people who live near rubbish dumps (aside from the offensive smell) are faced with the risk of fire, because the waste from these dumping sites generates methane gas. Even though methane gas is not toxic, it is highly flammable.

Filling Stations in Osu,

Last but not least, filling stations with restaurants in and around them should be checked and if possible closed down because it only takes either a leak from their giant cooking cylinders or a leak from the filling stations and a spark of fire to explode.

If you live in any of these settlements that have been mentioned with fuel stations too close for comfort, you could try these things :

1. Boycott patronage of shops that are improperly sited alongside filling stations.

New Filling stations at North Kaneshie in Accra

2. Demonstrate on the basis of a health hazard complaint till something is eventually done about it. I believe in the power of the people because it is the power of the people that has been vested in these authorities. Therefore, if these authorities are not using the power that was given to them to protect us, we have to make it work because we stay silent at our own risk.

3. If the area was originally mapped out as a filling station or industrial area, we owe it to ourselves to do the right thing and evacuate in case it turns out that we do not have the permission to live there.

Filling stations around Korle Bu Teaching hospital

Also, if your settlement has not been mentioned, you can contact me via email, Facebook or Twitter using my contact details at the end of this article. Send me a picture of a filling station that you think is a time bomb (it may or may not be around you). I believe this is a useful exercise to map out danger zones and provide a way forward to this engineering problem because it looks like even if there would ever be a restructuring of our cities, it will take a while; in the meantime we can’t afford to wait at the mercy of these time bombs and fold our arms.

Nagamni Oil near Kabsad Scientific Hospital in Tamale

By :Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

The KFC-Filling Station ‘unholy’ union and the NPA/EPA deafening silence

The year 2017 is about to end. For some, it has been a time of bliss but not with some challenges. Others have been scarred by some unpleasant events which are so vivid they cannot easily be wished away. Nevertheless, when you begin the year and enter into another Christmas season, it is a time to rejoice because whatever the situation may be, you are still alive. Never take it for granted. It is only when a loved one dies that you realize what a miracle it is for you to live. If you are alive there is always a chance to write a new story. I am writing mine.

I like to have fun so I never miss an opportunity to try out new places in town especially when it has to do with food. The restaurants, eateries have been my best hangout places. But in my ecstatic moments, I have noticed a worrying trend and it started with my trip to Adenta.  I couldn’t help but notice the KFC structure and a shell filling station that share a wall with Prudential Bank.

I thought that was the only one until I paid close attention and realized that it might be some form of an ‘unholy marriage’ between KFC and some of the filling stations on one hand and restaurants in general and other filling stations on another. At Dansoman, ‘Akukofoto’ is a giant KFC building sharing a compound with another fuel station. I am not against any form of business collaboration but I am against any collaboration that endangers the lives of citizens.

Here is where the problem lies. According to the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), the minimum distance that gas/fuel stations should be sited from residential areas is 30.8metres or 100feet. In this case, it is not a place of residence but a restaurant. This restaurant also has giant cylinders filled with gas (or whichever fuel that is being used) to prepare meals. Should any of these two sources of fuel leak (and with our depressing history of leakages it is entirely possible for that to happen) we are looking at yet another disaster of unimaginable proportion given the proximity of the two businesses. It is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode into wildfire and reduce into ashes anything in its path including the innocent fun loving people like myself who just dropped by for a bite of KFC chips, chicken and coke. That scares the hell out of me!

After the atomic explosion, President Nana Akufo-Addo ordered the “immediate cessation until further notice, of all construction of facilities intended for use as a gas or petroleum retail station.” This instruction is commendable provided it will be followed. However, the growth of restaurants sharing walls with filling stations is also an issue that has to be tackled head-on because they all pose great amounts of danger if not worse. KFC is not the only restaurant that is in proximity with filling stations but I have seen that combination one too many and if that can be nipped in the bud to prevent further danger, the better for us all.

It is important to state that I have nothing against KFC (in fact I am a big fan and lover of their Oreos) but I am also a citizen with responsibilities to do the right thing the best way I know how and I chose to write about it. I hope something is done and fast. This is for our own safety so that we can have fun without fear of another preventable explosion. I still love that chicken but I care about where it is located!

 

By : Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane.

naabd61@yahoo.com

 

Atomic Explosion : How long shall we continue to sit on these time bombs?

I had a recording at the Legon Botanical Gardens concerning a childhood cancer project that I am currently undertaking. After the recording, in the late hours of the afternoon, I decided to pass by a shop around Atomic Junction filling station to by a fruit drink. I stood there for some time taking sips intermittently and looked round before I crossed over to the other side of the road so that I could board a vehicle headed for Adenta (where I live). I came from Korle-Bu because my brother’s birthday was the next day and my mother and I wanted to surprise him.

Everything was calm at home with normal conversations going on. I was texting on my phone when I heard a loud boom with a vibration that accompanied it. My bed shook and it felt like the beginning of an earthquake. Initially, I thought someone threw some fire crackers over the roof but the way the bed shook didn’t add up ; Fire crackers are less violent.So, my mother and I went out to check but before we could reach the door, we heard another loud noise like the first one.

Then a third. We saw the fire ball in the sky ; even though it was night, the place lit up as though it were daytime. We live on a storey building so the we felt the impact even though the explosion was not so close.

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After verifying the source of explosion, we headed for Aburi because it was not so safe to stay in Adenta given that we had already started feeling the impact. En route to Aburi, we found a lot of people running in a similar direction on the road. We stopped to pick some of them and there was a struggle for the car but finally, two people entered and the journey continued. They told us that they run all the way from Madina to Adenta and where they were standing previously had burnt.

I called to find out how my brother was doing and he said they were told to move to the hostels at the opposite end of campus due to the fact that they were too close to the explosion. He had to go by foot because Taxi drivers were so afraid that they would not stop even when signaled.
In short, areas around the explosion were in chaos and most people had to evacuate their homes.

There was a lot of human and vehicular traffic on our way to the safe haven. A lot of people were hurt as a result of the stampede. On reaching the mountains, we saw a lot of cars parked as though it were Saturday and people were coming for their morning ritual exercises.

We stayed there for sometime still communicating with family and friends to find out whether they were alright and if the fire had subsided.

At 10:30, we were informed that the fire had died down so we were able to return safely. That was the order (or disorder if you like) of 7th October, 2017 for me. It was one scary experience and I have never seen anything like that in my life.

The picture above is an idea that I wrote down on the 16th of January, 2017 to be dealt with in the form of one of my articles.

timebomb.jpg

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to because I had totally forgotten about it. In the same way, after June 3rd, the conversation on the regulation of filling stations went on because it made the headlines at the time with the mayor of Accra giving comments like : “this is not going to be a nine-day wonder”.

Ironically, it was less than nine days when the conversations continued but no form of action was being taken. Till today, we are still talking about these man-made disasters we have created. All over the country, most filling stations are improperly sited which I like to call time-bombs. Time-bombs because we are living around these hazards not knowing when they will explode.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) fold their arms and watch as these fuel stations are lined up with some even sharing a wall. I don’t support the Khebab Theory because I believe if the filling station, auditors and authorities had followed protocol, this incident could have been prevented.
Why must we wait for disaster to happen before we take action?

Why have we planted time-bombs all over the city and live at the mercy of the time they would explode?

The slums in the city do not help the situation at all due to the fact that the buildings are too close so if one building catches fire, the rest will follow. In my opinion, the whole city has to be restructured but which politician will have the political will to do it at the mercy of his or her votes ?

It is normal to see people living by pylons and cables that emit very powerful radiation that is so dangerous for cells in the human body. Try to stop people from living there and they will rise up because they will feel you are not interested in their well being.

It has been a popular joke that Ghana Meteorological Agency hardly predicts thunderstorms that come to pass. We may be laughing at the wrong sides of our mouths if  we end up having to suffer the effects of a storm that took us unawares.

Ghana Television had a story many years ago concerning the fact that our Meteorological Agency have dysfunctional devices hence they may be unable to predict earthquakes and any form of similar natural disasters in the future. I did not see any follow-up report on this so I can not conclude as to whether they now have equipment or not.

We are quite fortunate not to have heatwaves, cyclones, hurricanes and earthquakes in our part of the world. However, in the wake of climate change, we will never know when their services would be essential. But must we wait for disaster to strike before we cry foul and demonstrate against wrong-doing that has been in existence for so long that it has become accepted as norm?

As stakeholders, we have to stand up for ourselves because it looks like all the agencies may not be able to protect us. If we all decide to demonstrate whenever and wherever we find improperly sited filling stations, we would put pressure on these agencies to do their jobs.

Childhood Cancer in Ghana reaching alarming levels

September is childhood cancer awareness month.

And on September 20, I had the opportunity to interview a parent, a child and a senior doctor at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to find out the current situation in Ghana with regard to the disease.

The child was diagnosed and successfully treated, from June to September, this year. Both parent and child were satisfied with the treatment they received, praising the doctors and nurses for their immense help.

However, they raised the issue of inadequate funding being their major problem during the course of treatment and advocated that something should be done about the situation. The other thing was having to travel from the Western Region to the capital in order to be diagnosed and treated.

The child had to hold on with her formal education until her treatment was over.

The medic in charge of the situation was Dr. Salifu, and described childhood cancer as any cancer occurring under the age of 15, with the common types in Ghana being  Butkitt lymphoma (on the jaw), Retinoblastoma (on the eye), Wilms tumor (kidney tumors of children), Leukemias (cancer of the white blood cells) and rhabdmyosarcomas (tumors growing in skeletal muscles).

The treatment options available are chemotherapy – with the common side effect being alopecia hair loss – radiotherapy, surgery or all the three depending on type and stage of cancer.

Though they may bear the same name, childhood cancers aren’t like adult cancers; in terms of treatment, the former is curable. In developed countries there is a 75% cure rate of childhood cancers, with some even fast approaching a 90% mark.

Ghana has major challenges with childhood cancer. There are just two childhood cancer treatment centers (Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, and a bigger one in Korle-Bu), therefore geoographical access to healthcare is a major problem.

There is no established way of funding childhood cancer treatment. When a child is registered under NHIS and is diagnosed with childhood cancer, the insurance scheme does not apply to that child anymore. As a country, our NHIS doesn’t cover childhood cancer drugs and such parents along with their children are left to their fate.

Some of the drugs are not readily available with few private companies willing to import the drugs to be used for treatment. There are issues of shortages as well even after importing because the quantity is inadequate.

The hostel at Korle-Bu for parents to pass the night while their children are on admission, even though beneficial, is woefully inadequate. Most parents trek from other regions to either Accra or Kumasi because there are no treatment centers in their places of origin. Some report too late, when virtually nothing but palliative care – managing their symptoms and giving them some comfort until they pass on – can be given.

As opposed to what happens here in Ghana, other developing countries have made provisions for accommodation, nutrition (feeding of children) and education so that they don’t get left behind in their various classes. They make provision for funding their diagnosis and entire treatment as well.  Due to this, their outcomes are very good with cure rates being high.

They are able to keep the child in the hospital for as long as it is needed for treatment to achieve a cure. Our input is necessary to achieve similar cure rates.

We cannot leave everything to patients if we want to achieve similar cure rates. And we also have to examine the way we manage childhood cancer cases if we want to achieve similar results.

Dr. Salifu also stated that there are 150-160 cases with confirmed diagnosis per year. These figures are those reported; there are people out there who have not been diagnosed and have died in communities.

Treatment becomes a challenge when they come in at late stages. At the time these laggards report their problems, only about 20% of them can be cured. Most of them can only be given palliative care. “This,” Dr. Salifu laments, “is unacceptable as a nation”.

Diagnosis must be made on time and appropriate treatment carried out and followed through till the end.

Because most parents can not afford costs, they are unable to complete treatment even if they start, and some abandon the process as soon as signs of improvement appear.

There are some sociocultural barriers and people have a problem disabusing their minds – some think that childhood cancer is some spiritual problem or curse that has befallen the family. For some people, as the child is receiving treatment, they are being told by either relatives or friends that this is not a hospital issue and that they need to look for external help.

On the brighter side, there are some support groups available –  a parents’ group called GHAPACC. They support each other in every way possible. They also teach some  vocational skills in the hospital for parents to be able to make a living while their ward receives treatment.

“Certain individuals and groups also come in sometimes to support with funds and motivation. Some include the International Central Gospel Church, Little Angels and Mmofra Africa. Their support is very much appreciated. We pray that as a nation we will all rise up and not leave it all in the hands of these benevolent individuals,” Dr. Salifu said.

She also said that continuous attempts are being made by some doctors, nurses and  medical students to create awareness on the disease. Some individuals and groups also go on health walks as a form of awareness creation. There is also involvement from the mass media.

Now more people are getting diagnosed and the main target is for the cases to be reported early.

Symptoms

One of the commonest cancers (retinoblastoma), which is also very treatable, presents itself as something whitish on the eye, a sudden deviation in the eye (squint/strabismus) or a protrusion (may not be an early sign but still necessary to report). If help is sought early enough, the eye, along with vision, can be saved.

Generally, other warning signs include persistent fever, unexplained weight loss, paleness, lumps, bleeding,easy bruising, tiredness, swellings all over the body, lumps on the body of on the genitals, complaints of aches and pains in the joints, bone or back, fractures without forceful activity, neurological signs (enlarging head, persistent headaches, early morning vomiting,change in behavior ,walking and difficulty attaining some milestones).

As a country, we are not all policy makers, but we are all stakeholders. And the stakes are high with regard to our children’s future and the amount of  attention given to childhood cancer.  We need to rise up as a society because the amount of attention given to the disease and treatment is inadequate.

“If the future generation of this country is denied health insurance just because they have developed cancer through no fault of theirs and they are left to their fate, I think it is unacceptable as a country and anywhere in the world. Cancer is an expensive diagnosis and we cannot leave it for families to manage on their own.

It is not enough on the part of policy makers to produce a document on the strategy to improve cancer treatment without any action plan. Implementation is very important. There is a document that has been produced as Ghana Cancer Control Strategy but we are not seeing any activity,” Dr. Salifu says.

Childhood cancers are curable and no child deserves to die of cancer.

Please do well to sign the petition to put the childhood cancer drugs on the NHIS by clicking on this link and kindly share afterwards.