Killer Kenkey

By Ali

Challenge 3

Kenkey is a staple dish of West Africa served with a soup, stew, or sauce. Two days ago, brave souls of the RAINS office were given the challenge to be the first to finish two servings of Kenkey. Although I was no match to the Champion who ate it all in less than three minutes, I still managed to finish one serving in 10 minutes, and that was the second Kenkey I ever had!

Kenkey

What were the chances I’d live to tell the tale?
SAM_1149

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Where do we go…?

By Fatawu

Doctors strike Ghana

Members of the Ghana Medical Association have been on strike since 8 April.

I never imagined that the current strike in Ghana by medical doctors could have had dire consequences like this until I became a victim to this power play between the Ghanaian Government on one hand and the medical professionals on the other hand. I believe that those who wrote our labour laws did not make any mistake when they categorised certain services, including medical services, as being essential.

According the labour laws of Ghana, those who are categorised as essential are not supposed to go on strike – but should they continue to work to detriment of their conditions when all supposed avenues to addressing their grievances have proved futile and unhelpful? Your guess is as good as mine.

Personally, I am not so much concerned about who is right or wrong; I am more interested in what the innocent poor villager would have to go through under this difficult condition. As a subscriber to the National Health Insurance Scheme, a social policy meant to cushion people when they fall ill, I majestically walked into the hospital to be treated for the malaria that I have been battling for some time now. The moment I got to the hospital, I could see hundreds of destitute parents and their children lying on the ground waiting to access health care services.

I made an enquiry at the front desk as to why these helpless souls were lying unattended, only to be told that there was nobody around to attend to them. I pushed for more answers as I ran out of patience. All the front desk officer could do was to direct me to the administrator of the hospital. The administrator told me that the hospital was in that state because there wasn’t any doctor to attend to these patients – including myself – because the doctors are on strike.

At this point, I wasn’t looking at myself as a patient, because I could still go to the private hospital and access good health care services. I was so much touched by the condition of the innocent and helpless children and their parents who have no option at all. So I ask myself, so why do we have this situation in modern Ghana? Why should it get to this extent? Is there any end in sight? I don’t know…

Why educate a girl?

The Comic Relief-funded project that we’re doing an impact assessment on here at RAINS has a huge emphasis on girl child education.

In Northern Ghana, where we live, poverty excludes many girls from education. There are a lot of organisations like RAINS and Camfed that focus on increasing school attendance by girls, and here’s an amazing infographic from US AID which shows why they bother:

US Aid Education Women girls Infographic statistics

Simply the breast!

by Tolu

Breastfeeding GhanaSince arriving in Ghana, the sight of breasts has been everywhere! While I pride myself on being an advocate for a woman having the right to feed her baby (my health and human rights professor will be proud), I do have to honestly say that it being so openly done has taken some getting used to. On the public bus to Paga last weekend, the woman next to me calmly whipped out her breasts to feed her twins at the same time. It was apparent from the reaction, or non-reaction, of the Ghanaians on the bus that this act was clearly as normal as drinking a bottle of water.

The act of breastfeeding is a natural act; a mother’s body produces milk filled with nutrients essential for the baby’s health and development – especially within the first six month of life. However, this simple and natural act has not come without controversy. In western countries like the UK and the US, public breastfeeding is generally not accepted – mothers have even been asked to leave planes and restaurants for breastfeeding. This has resulted in the birth of campaign groups and social movements advocating for the right to breastfeed in public, turning this natural act into a political issue. ‘Lactivists‘ have organised sit-ins to protest their right to breast feed in public

The complete opposite attitude exists in Ghana, which not only shows a cultural acceptance but also indicates progress in Ghana meeting the Millennium Development Goal associated with infant mortality and maternal health. With some of the benefits of breastfeeding being improved neurological development, reduced risks of common childhood illnesses and an increased bond between mother and child, health organisations such as WHO and UNICEF argue that breast is best.

In developing countries, it also shows a turnaround from the use of infant formula that was aggressively marketed years ago. In addition to infant formula not having the nutrients and antibodies contained in breast milk, it has also been shown to make children more susceptible to disease and preventable death. This is most prevalent in situations where clean water is not always available, meaning mothers mix the formula powder with contaminated water, causing a high number of deaths from illnesses such as diarrhoea.

In Ghana, significant progress has been made to turn nursing mothers back to breast milk. With over 60% exclusively feeding breast milk to their babies under 6 months of age, Ghana has one of the best figures in Sub Saharan Africa.

Therefore the next time I feel astounded at the sight of women whipping out their breasts to feed children in public, I will make a conscious effort to remember that this is a sign of greater development.

Pipe dreams

by Tolu

water pipes Tamale GhanaWe moved into a new house in Tamale and the initial excitement of living in a humongous brand new house has quickly worn off. We’ve had no furniture, fridge, kitchen utensils, and to top it off no running water.

Being without water quickly gets you to appreciate the little things in life such as making a cup of tea, washing your feet after a dusty harmattan day and flushing the toilet. In moaning about our misfortunes, a joke was made about how our right to water was being infringed upon. But we clearly know that all we have to do is kick up a fuss, apply some pressure to the landlady and water will come gushing out of the taps. Not that this has worked for us as we’ve now been for almost a week without water, but we live in hope and expectation.

However, for a lot of people in Ghana, a steady supply of water is an intermittent luxury with little hope of a quick remedy. Tamale (where we are currently based) is one of the fastest growing cities in the country; the demand for water is around three times more than supply. The dry season makes water supply even more erratic, with households going more than a week without any water and in some extreme situations, up to a month.

The lack of adequate water supply has more far reaching consequences than not being able to have a shower or make a cup of tea.  It disrupts the education of children if they have to travel far to access water in the mornings, it affects healthcare if hospitals are also subject to water shortages and sanitation also suffers which brings on its own consequences.

The Human Right to Water has proved controversial in international law and was only formally acknowledged by the UN General Assembly in 2010.  Up until this point, there was no legal oligation on states to fulfil this right, merely a political acknowledgement that it existed.

The Ghanaian constitution does not explicitly contain a right to water, but Ghana has shown commitment by ratifying the 2006 Abuja Declaration where it pledged to promote this right. The Government also met its aim to reduce the number of people without water supply by 85% by 2015 in time for the Millennium Developments Goals deadline, ahead of the designated target set by the UN of 78%.

In addition, development organisations are working in northern Ghana to establish a better water supply for communities. There is clearly a desire for improvement and the new term of President Mahama inspires hope that even more positive change will be seen in the Northern region of the country.

For a more detailed explanation of the issues in this post, check out the Water Aid website.