Since the emergence of COVID-19 in December 2019, over 216 countries and territories have been affected globally. Like a raging fire, COVID-19 has left in its trail over a million deaths and 50 million infections worldwide. Ghana has had its share of this global pandemic, with a little over 49,000 confirmed cases and 320 deaths as at November 9, 2020.
When Ghana recorded its first two cases on March 12, 2020, the Government of Ghana quickly activated a multi-sectoral response strategy to tackle and control the situation. For the purposes of understanding the trajectory of the disease locally and inform policy decisions, the government embarked on enhanced contact tracing and testing. This meant that the availability of sample collection kits, laboratory reagents and needed testing equipment sensitive to detect the coronavirus and aid in diagnosis was critical to the success of this implementation. The WHO through funds provided by the government of China partnered and supported the country through the provision of sample collection kits and reagents. The country through this continuous support has conducted over 550,000 tests with testing capacity expanding from initial two PCR testing sites to 17 PCR testing sites across the country as at November 2020.
Providing clear communications on the pandemic has been one of the key strategies adopted by the government of Ghana to enable people have accurate information to make informed decisions and ensure the success of response strategies being implemented. The president, Nana Akuffo-Addo has so far addressed the nation 23 times on measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. As evolving as the pandemic itself, is the surge in misinformation about treatment, cures and prevention of coronavirus with a high likelihood of causing harm to people and derailing the response strategies. To counter this ‘misinfodemic’ and provide access to open, accurate and timely information reaching a wide audience of people, the WHO through funds provided by China supported the country to produce key videos on COVID-19 and in strengthening the Ghana Health Service website for COVID-19. Today the country is able to reach over 2.6M people with COVID-19 information through key COVID-19 videos streamed on various social media. The GHS website had over 165,201 views between 15-21 July.
The Rapid Response Team (RRT) forms a major component in the emergency response framework. RRT consists of interdisciplinary teams of trained personnel ready to be deployed in a public health emergency. These teams should remain trained and have standard protocols to enable prompt and effective emergency response. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Ghana, the Eastern Region remains part of the top five regions with high burden of cases. To enable the region respond effectively to the pandemic and reduce community transmission, the WHO with funding from the government of China supported the Eastern Regional Health Directorate to train 240 Rapid Response Team members and Contact Tracers to build capacity to early detect COVID-19 cases and conduct effective contact tracing. Onsite technical support was provided to 10 selected districts on sample collection, contact listing and transportation of samples to the laboratory. COVID-19 frontline health workers from 26 hospitals were trained on case management, Infection prevention and Control practices. During the training period, six Public Health Emergency Committee meetings were held leading to improvement in coordination and reporting of prevailing COVID-19 epidemiological situation.
Similarly, the WHO supported the Upper East Regional Health Directorate to strengthen COVID-19 response activities within the region. An Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated to coordinate all response activities and perform daily situational analysis of activities conducted. Within the period of support, twenty EOC meetings were held with provision of feedback on situational analysis to the districts. Sixty rapid response team members were oriented on COVID-19 protocols and various guidelines. The case management team was also oriented on the new WHO discharge protocol to better care for COVID-19 cases. At the time of the support the region was recording over 200 cases, currently the region has 14 active cases.
Indeed, the support of the government of China has contributed to the success story in Ghana’s fight against COVID-19. Notwithstanding, more funds are needed to engage more stakeholders in COVID-19 messaging to improve public adherence to safety protocols and reduce community transmission.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.
WHO staff providing technical assistance to a staff of NMIMR