he radio stations are discussion donations from political activists; the politicians are sharing hand sanitizers, liquid soaps and branded veronica buckets; CSOs and cooperate world are donating to government. Market women are practising hand washing, all government agencies, business and most homes have installed handwashing facilities. I cannot visit my uncle because the children cannot resist hacking me. Staying at home. We have stopped praying in groups and handshaking have become a crime. These are precautionary measures against the spread of COVID- 19. It is refreshing to see the level of behaviour change in the week on the outbreak of COVID- 19. It is indeed great to adhere to the expert advice to stay at home in order to reduce the risk level. While we are very much mindful of coronavirus, little attention is given to the outbreak of Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM). In the spate of January to 15th April 2020, the Upper West Region has recorded 258 cases with 40 deaths. Nandom, Jirapa, Nadowli and Daffiama Bussie Issa have been identified as a hot spots. CSM has killed more people in the Upper West Region than COVID- 19 that has taken the life of 10 Ghanaian so far, that is four-times more. Why are we silent on CSM? It is not lifes that we are losing? Are some lifes more important than others? We fear covid-19 deaths but not CSM?
The Upper West Regional Health Directorate and Coordinating Council’s conduct are disheartening. The focused has been on the COVID- 19 which has been the global pandemic. Their ill attitude in vigorously raising the red alert and marshalling adequate resources in fighting the menace of CSM is appalling. The less attention given to CSM outbreak in the Upper West Region points to the fact that, the life of vulnerable people doesn’t matter. Listening to press statement from regional director of health service, I am tempted to question his professional and intellectual competence. It is not an excuse to lose 40 precious lives as a result of the CSM outbreak, haven identified the period of occurrences. What preparedness plans are put in place, what risk assessment was carried out, what management and communication system have been put in place? Since when have they realize this CSM has graduated to coronavirus status where vaccines are not ready? Why did it take the region so long to procure drugs that could help manage the situation? What level of community sensitization programmes has been initiated? It is because CSM does not infect the privileged class of which the regional minister and director of health services belong?
More revealing is the fact that, the Regional Director of Health Services Dr Osei Kuffour Afreh has been peddling falsehood to the people of Upper West Region and Ghana. In his press briefing last week, he indicated receiving drugs from Greece and to dispatch to the various District. He said “we now have enough drugs to treat CSM cases” while in the early hours of this week he categorically stated there is no vaccine for CSM. The drugs I guessed are to help manage the situation. Why does he want to give false hope to the general public?
The Upper West Regional Minister Dr Hafiz Bin Saleh has become the information officer in providing updates on COVID- 19 and only to respond to public criticism that has now made him inculcate the updates of CSM. This is not enough; we are not appealing to politicians and technocrats to give a priority to CSM as well, it is their duty for they are paid with the taxpayers’ money. If we do not backtrack on dishonesty, wickedness and selfishness, posterity would judge leadership that has failed to protect the lives of vulnerable people.
Another misconception is the fact that politicians have provided Vaccines and drugs to help combat the spread of CSM in the region. While we must commend Hajia Humu Awudu NPP parliamentary candidate (Wa Central) and Former President John Dramani Mahama for helping. There is no drug or vaccine that can prevent this serotype X. This is according to the Regional Health Director. I guessed these drugs would help in managing the situation. The truth must be appreciated.
The regional minister must at least, for now, direct more resources and attention in engaging the appropriate state actors and CSOs, in particular, to intensify the campaign against CSM in order to reduce the risk from contracting the epidemic. We must all speak and act now to prevent escalation or remained silent and pay a heavy price of been misled by people who do not give priority to the life of the vulnerable persons in Nadowli, Nandom, Jirapa and DBI. It is important for family members or persons exhibiting signs and symptoms of severe headache, stiffness of the neck, general body pain and weakness to immediately report to the nearest facility for a check-up. The media must equally shift some attention in creating platforms for experts to sensitize the general public against the CSM outbreak. We must all join the campaign against the spread of CSM. COVID- 19 is deadly; CSM is killing us more.
Author; Tahiru Lukman
Youth Activist, Dev’t Consultant & Pan- African Writer
Tel: 0209154057 / 0551018778