With COVID-19, “political, religious, social differences evaporated”: Ghana’s Ex-President

Former Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama, while addressing Hospital staff at donation of hospital equipment to fight the COVID-19, Saturday, April 4, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and its toll on Ghana where 214 reported cases of the disease have been confirmed has brought the country together in ways never witnessed before, according to former Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama.

“It has been heartwarming to see how political, religious and social differences have evaporated and replaced by a sense of unity and camaraderie in a bid to beat back this disease,” said Mahama in his April 4 address when he made a donation of hospital equipment to fight the COVID-19.

He added in reference to collective efforts to contain the deadly virus, “The fight has brought out the very best in all of us.”

Responding to a reported shortage of healthcare equipment in the West African country in the fight against COVID-19, Mahama who was at the helm of Ghana’s political leadership between 2012 and 2016 handed over a total of 500 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) together with 500 gum boots to the country’s COVID-19 Team.

The equipment will in turn be presented to a number of health facilities, particularly, the Korle-Bu and Tamale Teaching Hospitals in Ghana.

“We have all with one accord, contributed our widow’s mite, donated what little we can mobilize and shown care to the needy in our society,” the Presidential Candidate for the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Ghana’s upcoming elections in December said.

He added, “We have rallied to a national call in ways that have not been seen in quite a while. Many are having to stay home, shut down their business, both big and small, despite the economic implications on the family and workforce.”

The former political leader decried reported imminent strike of healthcare professionals in the country owing to the lack of protective gear, saying “The unpleasant news of an imminent strike by health workers at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital because of the poor response to COVID-19 is most disturbing and the situation is not an isolated case.”

He continued, “Complaints of lack of PPEs and isolation facilities are coming from many health facilities across the country and it is important that steps are taken to identify areas of urgent need and supply the resources and logistics needed to build the confidence of our frontline health workers to battle this disease.”

According to the former Ghanaian leader, failure by the country to plan for pandemics was to blame for the challenges that health institutions in the country were grappling with in the fight against COVID-19.

“It is not a good thing that health workers, across the country, still, do not have personal protective equipment. This is obviously because we did not plan early as a country and our importation of test kits was also late. Also, the demand for test kits and PPEs have outstripped supply globally.”

Lauding the efforts of health workers in Ghana, former president Mahama said, “I am deeply touched by the enthusiasm and the sacrifice of our health workers.”

He called for a more proactive state of readiness to be put in place going forward, with the hope that “no longer must it be the case that dangerous diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS or COVID-19 gets to our shores before we scramble around to arrest their impact.”

“These proposals are a part of our manifesto, which we intend to launch later in the year, when we have collectively defeated this pandemic,” he stated, adding that “It has become necessary now to make them public because of the current climate and in the hope that to the extent possible, they may be factored into ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19.”

Mahama says that key among lessons drawn from the COVID -19 episode is the fact that “we are not immune from pandemics that hitherto were deemed to be far removed from us. While we may have been spared outbreaks like Ebola, SARS, MERS and the like, we have been very much affected by COVID-19, which has proven extremely disruptive to our lives and holds the potential of having dire consequences for our economy.”

He stated that the relative fragility of the health and social welfare systems in Ghana “makes us even more vulnerable to its fallouts and our people stand to suffer tremendously if such diseases are allowed to take us by surprise.”

The aspiring Presidential candidate has proposed the immediate development of a National Infectious Disease Response Plan “that clearly sets out the specific steps to be taken to prevent the entry of such diseases, quickly arrest them even if they do enter our shores at a very early stage and reduce their impact to the barest minimum.”

“We must establish another medical research centre with capacity like the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in the Northern part of Ghana,” he suggested, adding, “We must expand the 37 military hospital, doubling the current bed size, and also build an Infectious Diseases Centre there to cater for the Southern sector to help with the management of cases like Ebola and COVID-19.”

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