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.

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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.

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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.

Eric’s Diary X : When we can’t fix what’s broken

 

I get into the shower routinely but today I stopped to wonder – “What if I stopped the running water in the bath tub and let my head sink for just 20 minutes?” No, maybe that’s too uncomfortable ; I will choke on the water and drown to death. “Death. Isn’t that what you want?” I was not sure of many things but at this moment I was sure that I just wanted to disappear but I couldn’t do that without dying.
There was this aura of sadness that I couldn’t explain. At first I thought it would go away just like anything else but it was like a tide – it kept rising and falling only that this time it did not subside like I thought it would.
Should I try out what I saw on television instead? Slitting my wrist is not such a bad idea at least Frank from House of Cards taught how to do it right by slitting vertically and not horizontally but there is pain in that one too.
Or should I go to the garage, switch on mum’s engine and allow the odorless carbon monoxide to take over me? It would be like I died in my sleep – peaceful. No one will even notice unless someone wants to use the car which is unlikely at this time. If you feel like you are not in the right place or this is not the right diary you are reading, well sorry to disappoint but it is. This is still Eric.
I used to be on top of my game despite the fact that I have ADHD but now I think life is getting the better of me coupled with the fact that I have been in some bad relationships that left me wrecked (that’s an issue for another day).
Bottom line is – I feel unworthy, unloved and uncared for. I feel like if I were to disappear nothing will change anyway and people would go on with their lives as usual. I feel that I am sometimes being a burden on society and some of the people around me when I can’t control myself due to my condition so I sometimes embarrass them.
No one notices that everyday I cry for help. When I say I need someone to talk to people just brush it aside or sometimes forget I even said anything. They say “hard guys” don’t cry but I believe everyone has their breaking point and this is mine. Maybe this is the end of the road for me because I have tried everything – from motivational songs, videos to speeches.
Those things are even beginning to sound alike and sometimes they are so plastic that I can even predict the next thing that’s going to be said.
Before I was diagnosed with depression, I was in denial at first. One of the few people I am privileged to call ‘friend’ would look into my eyes and ask me whether I was alright and I would look straight into hers and answer in the affirmative even though I was dying inside.
I did not tell her because I was afraid she might not relate to how I feel. I didn’t also want her to leave like my girlfriend (Edem) left when I disclosed that I felt I had started showing signs of depression.
One day when I felt no one was watching, I went behind the classroom to sit on the lover’s bench. I cried the whole time while making a quick google search on signs and symptoms of depression. It was like I had a checklist in my mind and I would uncheck everything mentally just to convince myself that there was nothing wrong win me.
As I was so engrossed in this exercise, I felt a warm tap on my shoulder. Our eyes met and she smiled at me. I pretended I wasn’t doing anything but the tears in my eyes gave me away. She said it was okay if I needed a moment and that I should cry if I need to.For the first time in my life, a girl had told me that expression my emotions as a boy in that manner was okay; it made me feel more comfortable with her automatically.
That was when she told me her story – she was raped at  ten while returning from an errand. She told me about how badly it had affected her and for about 3 years, she was silent and went into a state of repression (unconsciously living like it did not happen).
Till she had a trigger when her boyfriend tried to be intimate with her and all the events that night started to unfold. Her boyfriend did not understand what was going on at first but later got help for her by contacting a psychologist who took her through counseling.
She has been on antidepressants for a long time and she confessed that occasionally, she has some depressing episodes but they aren’t as terrible as the first.She told me that in her case, her boyfriend was both her trigger and her savior . Then she gave me a long hug and asked whether I wanted to talk about what was bothering me.
I have never poured my heart out to someone like that before ( I didn’t want to tell my mum because I felt she had too much to deal with). Cutting the long story short, this girl put me in contact with her psychologist and that was what saved me that day. I don’t know what I would have done to myself. Dialogue is very important to people who are depressed.
I applaud the people who are able to catch the early signs and offer a listening ear to anyone in that situation because sometimes that could be their saving grace. In such times, it is the little things like a hug, a smile or a word of encouragement that veers the person off that path of doom that’s lurking.
Even though no one can be certain that everything would be okay, there is one thing I am sure of ; having anxiety is one thing. Having depression is another. But having both at the same time is like a storm raving inside of you that can’t be kept still.
Eric’s diary is a series of fictional stories with the aim of address childhood diseases and disorders.
By : Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

Chale Wote Festival : Graffiti, the ‘Wata Matas’ and overflowing crowd

While walking through the streets of James Town one sunny day, I came across some graffiti work on the wall ; some were being painted over to make way for new ones.

It was imminent  that the Chale Wote festival was near because I had seen the Homowo (festival of the Ga people in Ghana) celebrations which always coincide with the Chale Wote Street Festival which started on the 14th of August and ended on the 20th of August in grand style.

Initially, there was not much activity during the first few days (probably because momentum was being gathered for the latter days). However, on the 16th of August, majority of the walls came to life as the various artists flooded their surfaces with colorful drawings.

This brings to mind the theme : Wata Mata. It is interesting to note that almost all the works of art had something aqua-related even if it was a drop in the ocean. (Thus Wata = Water and Mata = Matter). Some artists were able to finish their work in a day while others finished within a two-day span depending on the labor intensity of their work.

There was an added advantage of getting the concept from the horse’s own mouth because the artists were around to interact with the public as well as answer questions on their work.

For instance, I was able to ask about a painting  which showed cultural integration of people of different races which I thought was beautiful.  There was also a painting of a boxer with the (James Town) Lighthouse tower beside him signifying that boxing is a common sport in that area.

Chale Wote 2017 Naa
The festival ,which is organized by Accra dot Alt, has been running annually since 2011 and it was no surprise that it was heavily patronized this year. On Saturday, I took public transport only to realize that half of the people in the vehicle were also going to the festival so we all walked together happily.

Getting there was not an issue because all we needed to do was follow the crowd since all roads lead to Chale Wote (only that in this case, some roads had been blocked to make painting of the street possible).

The crowd was youthful but that is not to say that the older people did not come in their numbers. There were a number of foreigners as well who were seen trying to make way through the streets to go face-painting, buy items or take pictures.

Due to the fact that the place was crowded, there was heavy police presence to prevent any chaos. Aside, people running around while shouting and a little nudging here and there, everything was under control.

There was a lot of drumming and dancing alongside gun shots (whose significance are related to the Homowo festival celebrated by the Ga people). The shots are believed to ward off evil spirits

While making my way through the thick crowd, I met an encircled crowd of people. When I decided to peep out of curiosity, I saw that there were two people boxing and the crowd made up the human-ring. This was just one of the many side-attractions. Others included : face painting, motor-bike riding and performances by some local artistes.

Chale Wote 2017 Naa

Not forgetting the fact that the organizers seized the opportunity to open the prisons so that people could have a feel of it. While entering the Ussher Fort prison, I saw something that caught my attention. It was an inscription “This is Art”. I looked above, to see if I was missing anything only to find out that the inscription was meant for the heap of garbage lying just underneath the inscription.

Like many others, I was eager to find out whoever the artist was and what he or she really meant concerning that. This took me a while but I later came across an Instagram post by the originator which made a lot of sense.

She was referring to the sanitation problem in the country (Ghana) and how it may prove to be a threat if collective action is not taken.

Chale Wote 2017 Naa

I believe this was an important wake-up call that draws attention for the need to maintain a clean environment (which has been a major problem in the country). The solution may be less of clean-up exercises and more of attitudinal change but this is a story for another day.

Despite the sanitation flaw, the festival was colorful, beautiful and well-patronized. It would not be surprising to see it become a major tourist attraction in a few years to come.

When I was a little girl, I wish they’d told me…

IMG_20170623_163723When I was a little girl
The first television I knew was black and white
While in school, they impressed upon us that black was the opposite of white
Black for mourning
White for rejoicing
Black for darkness
White for brightness
Black for bad deeds
White for the good ones
The devil was black in every single play
Jesus was portrayed in white as I watched in disdain
Engraving in our memories
That our black sins should be washed away
So that our white garments could be on display
Well, as I got wind of colour television
I got to see the rainbow
Tasted variety
Only Physics was generous enough to teach me that
While white isn’t just one colour
Black may not always be a colour
And rainbows don’t always appear in the sky
I wish they’d told me that not everything was black and white

 

When I was a little girl
Head, shoulders, knees and toes
Regarding anatomy, we thought we were so close
Not that we knew what it was anyway
With simple algebra we were blown away
That kind of math paved a way
It was the foundation that brought us all the way
Just so we are clear
It’s the sole reason why we are here
But back then it was just too much for some to bear
I wish they’d told us it wasn’t that simple
That someday we would need to explain more than a skin dimple

When I was a little girl
I thought mum and dad knew everything
So I would ask them anything
Satisfied with most of their responses
I was never really scared
Because they promised to always be there
One day I came home with many questions
Hoping to get some answers
For hours, I sat on the couch
Tired of waiting, I decided to search the house
No indication of Mummy and Daddy
They never returned
Now I wish someone had all the answers
My days became less bright
I guess mum and dad weren’t always right
I wish someone told me that it was okay to be scared
because they wouldn’t always be there

When I was a little girl,
A teacher once told us to take note:
“Majority always carries the vote”
Majority of the movies I watched
Had similar themes
“Good always triumphs over evil” it screams
Well, in theatre majority live for the applause
A few do it for a good cause
Our real lives depict otherwise
The world is full of good and bad
Being unscrupulous appears to be wise
Yet we must learn to accept that no matter how many times we pray
Sometimes the wicked may get away
I wish they’d told me that sometimes the bad get rewarded and poetic justice isn’t always awarded
This hard truth I wished to be told when I was just a little girl.

By : Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

Too much or just enough?

Up and down he runs on tarred road
In the deep dark night so cold
But stops to wonder what if he grows old?
Would his athletic story still be told?
Or would his memory be in a museum as mere stone?
He starts to wonder
Is it too much or just enough ?

Swamped by a sea of knowledge
Here is the girl who thought she would never make it to college
Those finals are drawing near
Yet the concepts still remain unclear
Her countless efforts only just mere ?
She begins to shed a tear
And wonders
Is it too much or just enough ?

Consulting room it is
Everyday it’s a different kind of disease
Rare or not we’ve got to care
It’s an emergency but what if it is not treated with such urgency ?
Dangerous disease it is
A malignancy with a 5% survival tendency
Treatment of choice is a 50-50 chance
Do we give the drug
Or fold our arms in wait for death’s deadly drag ?
How sure are we that this dose is just enough to cure
Given that the therapeutic window is too narrow to endure?
Is it too much or just enough ?

Does he have the courage to propose marriage?
Or is he like the other guys who hate commitments and ties?
One brawl to the next
Is it a test?
Some say arguments are healthy
Am I in it because it’s true
Or did I stay just because he is wealthy?
Is this love going to last
Will it fade some time past?
Do you think they’ve had enough?
Is it too much or just enough?

Hitting those high notes
Very soon, there would be no voice to recite any quotes
How long would my vocal cords remain patent
Is it a tangible dream or something so latent?
Am I doing too much or just enough ?

So many cooks
Yet they try to keep the broth intact
It doesn’t matter how it looks
If the taste isn’t as good as its cooks
More sugar, more spice
Would it taste as nice?
But who knows?
When the cock crows
And the dish is served
Does it matter how it looks
Or the number of good cooks?
Which one’s the best anyway?
In this sauce of life
We find ourselves in daily strife
Regarding the decision of whether it is too much or just enough.

The month of love…So tell me, is this love? – Xenophobia & Racism

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February is often thought to be the month of love but is it not ironic that it was within this same month that Xenophobic attacks resurfaced in South Africa?
Is the love the world seems to portray only a mirage/facade?

Any person who decides to hate another individual to the extent of wanting to kill him or her either because of skin colour or the fact that he or she is a foreigner has a big problem. As a matter of fact, anyone who would want to kill someone for any reason must be checked. So it surprises me how a person can look into the eyes of another human being and stab him or her with a knife. Sadly, this is not a joke. That was the story of Emmanuel Sithole and many others (in 2015) who were either stabbed or burned to death simply because another person felt threatened by their presence with the flimsy excuse of foreigners taking over their jobs and economy. On the other hand, a 2015 study conducted by the University of Cape Town revealed that foreigners rather make major contributions to the South African economy by paying rent and providing jobs.

So tell me, is it okay to have a day/month  set aside for love yet the world is still full of hate, racism and xenophobia? Do we but kid ourselves when we decide to turn a blind eye to such issues as the world continues to move on as though the black race or the rights of foreigners are irrelevant? Are we comfortable going to church (or our various places of worship) in one moment and then turn to literally stab our neighbor in the back while walking across the street?

It is often said that the first solution to a problem is understanding the root of the problem. I have tried so hard to see through these racist and xenophobic attacks but no matter how I look at it, it just does not make any sense.

In as much as it is so hard to solve a deeply rooted problem such as this, I think it is very necessary to speak, do whatever we can to stop it and not just fold our arms because the situation may seem hopeless.

When I read about the abolishment of slavery, I thanked my stars that such a barbaric act was put to an end. Just when I thought it was all over, equally terrible crimes against humanity came along – racism and xenophobia.

By : Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane
naabd61@yahoo.com
Twitter : @Adzeley