COVID-19: No reason for complacency – Update Volta Region

July 27, 2020 in Ghana, Partner by guenther_michels

COVID-19: NO REASON FOR COMPLACENCY – An Update on the situation in Ghana´s Volta-Region

Karsten Gareis, HITA, 15.7.2020 – with input from Jacob Ahiave / Grow Your Dream Foundation

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1 The current situation

In a recent report [1] Chatham House, an independent UK political think tank, summarised the general perception of how COVID-19 has affected the African continent: “Despite public health constraints, widespread infectious disease, and poor nutrition, COVID -19′s toll on Africa has so far been less than initially feared”. Except for South Africa, rates of infection and COVID-19 related deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have remained comparatively low, especially compared to the number of fatalities among non-white people in South America and elsewhere in the world. There is no reason for complacency yet, though, as “[...] the situation changes daily and significant uncertainties remain. [...] Resilience should not lead to complacency, which, in itself, would become a major risk.” [2]

The Ghana government response to the outbreak of COVID-19 has demonstrated strong commitment. It has been based on the country’s successful experience with fighting the West African Ebola epidemic (2013-2016) and benefits from emergency support from the World Bank amounting to $35 million to “help the country provide improved response systems” [3].

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On 15 March 2020, the government banned all public gatherings including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, church activities and other related events to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Other measures have included disinfection of markets; special life insurance cover for the professionals at the frontline dealing with the pandemic; and the set-up of quarantine centres. Major efforts have been put into contact tracing and stepping up testing exercises in the country. Since 22 March, all the county’s borders have been closed. A lockdown was declared from 29 March to 20 April in two metropolitan regions in which most early cases of infections were reported (Accra and Kumasi). At around the same time all basic schools, senior high schools and universities, both public and private, closed. They remain so except for final year junior high, senior high and university students, for whom classes resumed on 15 June to allow them to conduct their respective exit examinations.

Wearing of masks in public places and social distancing was made compulsory nationwide in June. Punishment for violation of safety protocols is severe: For refusing to wear a face mask in public, the new legislation foresees a prison sentence of 4 to 10 years or a fine of GHS 12,000-60,000 (about € 2,000-10,000) or both[4] (!!). The legislation has been widely criticised as being out of proportion, as many poorer Ghanaians find it difficult even to afford a regular supply of face masks. Actual penalties imposed are less draconian. For example, the Ho Municipal Assembly has instituted a spot fine of GHS 20 against persons who are caught without face masks in public, which is enforced frequently.[5]

The efforts taken by the government and the national health system appear to have been effective in preventing a full-scale outbreak of the disease in the country. When looking at the total number of cases in relation to the population, Ghana’s rate is currently about one third of the rate for Germany, one fifth of South Africa, and less than one tenth of the USA and Brazil.[6] When the focus is on the number of COVID-19 related deaths as a proportion of the population, the Ghana’s figure is 25 times smaller than the German one. In early July, the number of active cases surpassed 5,000 for the first time, before falling again to 4,878. 129 deaths have been causally linked to COVID-19 so far – a very small number when compared, for instance, with the number of deaths due to tuberculosis (over 16,000 per year). [7]

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2 Worrying signs

These statistics do not, however, tell the full story. Because of the limited testing capacities in low- and medium-income countries, there is near certainty that deaths causally related to COVID-19 are substantially underreported in SSA when compared to higher income countries. Despite the ambitious approach to testing and tracing taken by its government, this is also true for Ghana. The number of tests (daily tests per 1 million people) in Ghana was 99 in early July, compared to 843 in Germany and 752 in South Africa. [8] The number of tests per confirmed case in Ghana is 5, roughly the same as in South Africa (4.4) but considerably less than in Germany (174). [9]

Compared to the low overall number of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths in Ghana, it is striking how many politicians have been infected by the virus. The list includes:

  • Minister of Health (recovered);
  • Chief Executive of the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (died);
  • CEO of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) (recovered);
  • CEO of Forestry Commission and former General Secretary of the governing New Patriotic Party (died);
  • Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry (recovered);
  • Volta Regional Minister (recovered);
  • Senior Minister of the Republic of Ghana (in isolation);
  • Minister for Education (recovered).

In early July, the Ministry of Education went public with the information that 90% (!) of its staff tested positive for the Coronavirus. [10] At the time of writing, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo is still in self-imposed isolation on the advice of doctors after a person in his close circle tested positive for coronavirus, in spite of reportedly testing negative himself. [11]

Many of these cases are very recent, which suggests that claims that Ghana “reached the peak of its COVID-19 infections” already in early May, as publicly announced by the head of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the government [12], are dubious. Party politics appear to play an important role in the way the government deals with the pandemic: the country will hold presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2020, in a vote that will be a very close contest between the ruling New Patriotic Party and the main opposition National Democratic Congress. Against this background, any official statements about the pandemic’s development in Ghana needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Apart from the uncertainty about the real extent of the spread of COVID-19 in Ghana, there are several other challenges that need to be addressed urgently. Ghana’s Minister of Health has listed some of these in a recent report to the WHO about Ghana’s experience with the pandemic [13]:

Propagation of fake news and myths

As discussed in our first report on COVID-19 and the current situation in Adaklu, a lot of damage is caused by the spread of fake news, misinformation and myths about the origin of the virus, its transmissibility and methods to prevent and treat an infection.

Breaching of social distancing rules

Despite the harsh punishment of violations of the COVID-19 protocols implemented by the government, anecdotal evidence suggests that social distancing rules are systemically breached in some communities and under some circumstances.

Unfortunately, the nationwide process of voter registration, which is currently ongoing in preparation of the December elections, is causing large numbers of people to assemble in groups at registration posts. Despite calls to postpone the compilation of a new voters’ register, Ghana’s Electoral Commission insisted on the need for a completely new register rather than an update of the existing one (which is from 2012). [14] The Electoral Commission has promised to make sure that COVID-19 protocols are upheld at all registration posts, but many observers have issued doubts. A group of healthcare practitioners formally complained to the Electoral Commission that “public conducting a mass voter registration exercise as the country battles the Covid-19 pandemic will result in more deaths from the disease [...] as the exercise will promote the gathering of people in a manner that will inadvertently undermine the principles of social distancing and therefore facilitate the community spread of the disease”. [15]

Evidence from Ho indeed suggests that the voter registration exercise is compromising the safety of the population, as social distancing is proving impossible due to the large number of voters seeking to register – see the photos below, taken on 10 July.

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Another decision by the government also risks leading to violations of the social distancing protocol. In June, final year junior high, senior high and university students, where asked to return to their classes to allow them to take their exit examinations. While President Akufo-Addo urged teachers to “conduct their lessons under strict social distancing”, the actual situation in the schools and universities often makes it all but impossible. We received reports from our partner schools in Ho, according to which dozens of students currently share a single dormitory room, and campuses are simply not large enough to allow children to keep at distance from each other. The fact that rainy season started in April, forcing everybody to spend indoors for many hours during the day, does not help matters. It does not come as a surprise, then, that both Mawuli and Mawuko Girls’ Senior High Schools in Ho recorded cases of children infected with the virus on July 13th. [16]

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‘The Denial syndrome’ of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases

In contrast to other transmissible diseases, cases of infection with COVID-19 are often asymptomatic, i.e. a large share of infected persons do not experience any symptoms themselves. Many Ghanaians are unwilling to accept the real possibility that a person can be a carrier for the infection without experiencing any symptoms whatsoever – increasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus due to careless behaviour such as insufficient social distancing.

Stigmatisation of recovered patients

Stigmatisation of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 represents a significant mental health risk to those affected. Moreover, fear of stigmatisation (and of being isolated in central facilities) can make individuals with symptoms that may be related to COVID-19, such as coughing or sneezing, try to hide their condition rather than seek medical attention.

Suspension of public health activities and under-utilisation of health services

Some public health activities such as vaccination campaigns are at risk of being suspended because of the COVID-19 response taking up most resources. Target groups of vaccinations are also harder to reach because of fears of being infected when participating in the campaign, which typically requires a visit to a health facility such as a CHPS compound.

In Ghana, attendance at maternal and child health services has dropped by 50% nationwide since the outbreak of COVID-19, according to estimates by Prof. Fred Binka, a leading epidemiologist at the University of Health and Allied Sciences in Hohoe.[17]

Ghana has planned to distribute insecticide-treated bed nets as a means of malaria prevention in 2020, as it does every three years in the context of a WHO-coordinated mass campaign to hand out bed nets to their population. The campaign has for now been suspended. Any delay is likely to result directly into increases in deaths due to malaria.[18]

The current practice of isolating persons who are believed may be infected with the Coronavirus makes matters worse. We received reports that in Adaklu and the city of Ho (which is situated close to Adaklu and provides the District’s population with advanced health services) individuals who visit a doctor because of symptoms that could be caused by COVID-19, or who for other reasons are thought to have been infected, are typically not allowed to return home, but are isolated for 14 days in a building on the premises of the Kpetoe Health Centre. The HITA team visited the facility in spring 2019, when we handed over several hospital beds as well as IT equipment donated by HITA supporters back in Germany. The photo above, which we shot during our visit, shows the building currently being used for the isolation station. Naturally, many people will avoid visiting a health facility if they risk being quarantined in this way without proof that they are COVID-19 infected.

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3 Next steps

HITA is currently in the process of discussing with collaborators in the Volta Region how we can help ensure an adequate response to COVID-19. Our main partners in this are two departments of the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), namely the School of Nursing and Midwifery (SONAM) located in Ho and the School of Public Health (SPH) located in Hohoe. We are also in continuous contact with Togbe Lablulu in Adaklu-Waya and with the Grow Your Life Foundation team that supports the communities of Adaklu through awareness raising activities, with a focus on giving women a stronger role in rural society.

Together with these stakeholders we have drafted a plan for an intervention to investigate COVID-19 related opinions, perceptions and behaviours of the rural population with an emphasis on the practical challenges people face in adhering to COVID-19 protocols (e.g. social distancing, protective clothing, hygiene, self-isolation) and in accessing health services at times of the pandemic. Based on the findings, we plan to develop training measures targeting community health nurses, who are in an ideal position to educate and directly support people in rural communities about how best to deal with the risks and hardships caused by the pandemic. As befits HITA’s belief in the power of information and communication technology to boost development in low-resource environments, our planned intervention will make full use of, in particular, mobile telephony and smartphones in order to implement inexpensive solutions tailored to the needs of Ghana’s rural population.


[2]     ibidem

[6]     Ghana (10 July, 2020): 756; Germany: 2365; South Africa: 4019; UK: 4237; Brazil: 8260. Source: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/total-confirmed-cases-of-covid-19-per-million-people?tab=table

Videoconference between Ghana and the University of Mannheim

June 18, 2020 in Ghana, Institutionen, Partner, Projekte by guenther_michels

Videoconference in the Ghanaian outback – a transcontinental exchange between experts

Gravel roads, bush fires and scorching sun. It’s a roasting hot day. The pick-up truck creaks as it leaves the paved road from Ho towards Adaklu Waya. Ho, that is the regional capital of the Volta Region in the south east of Ghana, not far from the border to Togo. The Volta Region is one of the poorest areas in Ghana. Many people live widely scattered in small villages or settlements. The pick-up truck drives to one of these villages. The driver skillfully avoids boulders and potholes. It is shaky. The journey is nevertheless fast. The windows are closed, because otherwise there would be too much dust and dirt blowing into the car. At the side of the road the passengers see burned earth, herdsmen with cattle and people carrying water in canisters home from a hole next to the dusty track. Here in the Volta Region HITA e.V. is committed to improve medical supply. And a HITA team is on board of the pick-up truck. Thomas Erkert and Daniel Gerlach, both on the executive board of HITA e.V., check the equipment once again. Petra Knott, formerly a nurse, now a teacher, prepares a checklist. “We had doubts whether everything would work as we had agreed in Germany,” recalls Daniel Gerlach, who was responsible for the technical setup.

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Figure 1: E.P.C. Clinic in Adaklu Waya, Volta Region, Ghana

After about one hour the shaking is over. The pick-up truck turns into the parking lot in front of a modern building, a small clinic for first aid (Figure 1). It is mainly malaria, infections or wounds that are treated here. Children also see the light of day here. Behind the doors the picture changes. Dusty washbasins without running water, patient rooms without beds, foam mattresses on the floor or a wooden podium as a bed. According to the impression of the experts from Germany, the building’s construction did not take the furnishings into account (Figure 2 and 3).

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Figure 2: The E.P.C. Clinic Adaklu Waya is lacking equipment. The building was financed by a private initiative.

The HITA team passes the operating theatre, or the room one so-called. Under these circumstances, an operation is out of the question. At the end of the corridor is the reception, in front is a waiting area. Here the experts from Germany are warmly welcomed. Thomas Erkert, Petra Knott and Daniel Gerlach have many years of experience in the health sector. Togbe Lablulu is happy about the reunion: “You promised to come back and you kept your promise!” As a tribal leader, a Togbe is comparable to a mayor in Germany. Next to him, a team of midwives, nurses and a representative of the clinic operator are present. The tension rises.

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Figure 3: The E.P.C. Clinic Adaklu Waya is lacking equipment. The building was financed by a private initiative.

A banner of HITA e.V. is quickly put up and then it is time to start. Daniel Gerlach sets up a laptop with a webcam on the reception counter. Next to it is a mobile phone for the data connection. One click to start the video call. And it rings. Suddenly voices and pictures from Mannheim. The connection is in place. The quality is good. The students from Mannheim are happy on one end of the line. The medical staff at the other end of the line is excited: the students from Mannheim University of Applied Sciences present the prototype of an app for documenting the course of diseases in structurally poor areas (Figure 4).

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Figure 4: HITA e.V. enables a video conference between the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences and medical staff from Ghana

This app was developed as part of a Design Thinking course. Design Thinking is a method for developing systems and solutions that focus on the users, in this case patients and medical staff. The nurses in Ghana give constructive feedback and consider a possible use of the presented app in their daily clinical routine. The clinic manager rates the ideas from Germany as promising and would be very happy about a further cooperation. The printouts of the prepared presentation brought along as a fallback option were not necessary to being used. The mobile phone network in Adaklu Waya is quite strong in order to enable the data connection. After a good hour of the exchange, as it is custom in Ghana, we follow the protocol and Togbe Lablulu thanks all participants for the inspiring insights and the opportunity to work together with young people across continents in this special way.

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Figure 5: In addition to nurses and midwives, the managing director of the hospital chain and the Togbe (tribal leader) is also on site

Got it! It all worked out! The pressure disappears and there is still a little “chatting” (Figure 4). Daniel Gerlach removes the provisional video conferencing system again. Petra Knott and Thomas Erkert set up two more patient rooms together with the clinic staff. In the meantime, a housekeeper has removed the coarsest dirt. Modern patient couches, beds and furniture, which HITA e.V. has brought to Ghana by ship container as a donation from a hospital in Germany, are checked and explained to the clinic staff: “In addition to cleanliness and hygiene, it is essential that the furniture is set up in such a way that the patients can be reached from both sides”, is only one of the many assistance measures that Petra Knott and Thomas Erkert discuss with the staff from Ghana (Figure 6 and 7).

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Figure 6: The HITA team explains how to handle medical equipment and provides support in setting up the clinic.

With many new motivating impressions, the HITA team gets back into the pick-up truck a few hours later. On the way, workers, farmers and school children ride along for a while. They quickly get on the pick-up and knock on the back window when they want to get off again to finish the way to their home on foot through the bush. At dusk, the pick-up reaches the town of Ho again. This collaboration continues even after the HITA experts return to Germany. A marketable solution will be developed from the prototype of the app. The nursing staff, the clinic manager and Togbe Lablulu are all eagerly awaiting the result.

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Figure 7: The HITA team explains how to handle medical equipment and provides support in setting up the clinic.

On the 15th. In June, we posted a podcast with further up-to-date information on this project on our audio platform HITA Radio. In an informative interview, the two HITA board members Thomas Erkert and Daniel Gerlach report on the development of the project, the current development of the app and the video conference they held at the beginning of the year during their visit to Ghana together with experts on site and with the students in Mannheim.

About HITA e.V.:

Healthcare IT for Africa e.V. (HITA e.V., www.hita-ev.org) is a non-profit non-governmental organization. HITA e.V. is an association of experts from different fields, such as education, development cooperation, health care, business administration, management and information technology, all of whom work on a voluntary basis. HITA e.V. has been implementing educational projects for vocational schools as well as telemedicine and infrastructure projects for the health care sector since 2009. The focus is currently on the rural areas of Ghana. As a non-profit non-governmental organization, the vision of HITA e.V. is to use eHealth and mHealth technologies to help optimizing the professional training of non-doctoral medical staff. These are forms of learning in which electronic or digital media are used for the presentation and distribution of learning materials, and in which it is possible to use portable devices such as smartphones or tablets. The goal of HITA e.V. is the sustainable improvement of health care in rural areas of Africa.

Article as PDF for Download: HITA Videoconference

How Covid-19 affects rural Ghana

April 10, 2020 in Ghana, Partner by guenther_michels

HOW COVID-19 AFFECTS RURAL GHANA – A First Report from Adaklu District, Volta Region

Karsten Gareis, HITA, 5th April, 2020 (updated on 13th April 2020) – with input from Jacob Ahiave / Grow Your Dream Foundation and Celestin Yao Etiam, Adaklu, Ghana

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1.) Introduction

The country of Ghana would appear to be well placed to deal with the current threat of a massive spread of Covid-19 due to its experience with earlier epidemics, in particular the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa (2013-2016). Back then Ghana was praised by the WHO and others for dealing very successfully with the Ebola threat. Experts asserted that this success was due to an:

“interministerial supervisory effort of Port Health, immigration, security services and the Ghana Health Service, as well as national and regional technical coordinating committees and public health sensitisation efforts. Three Ebola treatment centres were set up to manage cases. They were charged with surveillance, situation monitoring and assessment; case management; health education, social mobilisation and risk communication; logistics, security and financial resources; and planning and coordination. The approved insurance package for frontline health staff working on Ebola prevention and control by the government was another positive step. To keep Ebola out of Ghana, the government instituted education and training across the health and social divide; created awareness in the media, churches, schools and public places; and encouraged prevention measures of hand washing, avoiding unnecessary physical contact with ill people, changing burial procedures and increased surveillance/screening at the ports.” [1]

There are, of course, important differences between Ebola and Covid-19. Ebola is about 30 times more deadly than Covid-19, but the latter spreads much more easily. Nevertheless many of the procedures tried and tested during the Ebola epidemic can be applied to the current challenge as well. The first case of individuals infected with Covid-19 were reported in Ghana on 12 March, 2020. By 12 April, 566 cases have been reported, 8 of which have died. The first cases were reported in the Volta region on 12 April. [2]

The government response to the outbreak of Covid-19 has demonstrated strong commitment. On 15 March 2020, the government banned all public gatherings including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, church activities and other related events to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Basic schools, senior high schools and universities, both public and private, have also been closed. Since 22 March, all of the county’s borders have been closed until at least 19 April. A lockdown of at least two weeks was put into effect on 30 March concerning three city regions in which cases of infections had been reported by that date: Accra, Tema and Kumasi including suburbs, respectively. In these areas, only residents providing essential services like health workers, some key government officials, restaurants and food vendors are allowed to leave their home. Exceptions are also being made for allowing people to buy food. Major effort is being put intp contact tracing and in stepping up testing exercise in the country. Other measures have included disinfection of markets mainly in the Accra region; special life insurance cover for the professionals at the frontline dealing with the pandemic; and the set-up of quarantine centres. The government and GHS have also taken a number of steps to inform the public about appropriate behaviour to mitigate the threat posed by Covid-19, such as a Whatsapp-based notification service and distribution of posters.

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The question is now to what extend the measures taken can help avoid the virus spreading to larger numbers of residents within the country. Scientists are not yet clear about whether warm weather inhibits spread of the virus [3], which would shield countries such as Ghana – where most of the population rarely experiences temperature below 20°C – from the worst impacts of Covid-19. There remains the possibility, however, that the emergence of this new disease will have a devastating and lasting impact on already fragile health system of the country. Health officials are very aware “that hospitals can deal with only a fraction of those needing care if the virus spreads through overcrowded cities, remote villages and among vulnerable populations such as refugees, the malnourished or those suffering from HIV and other chronic conditions.” [4] On the basis of the recent experience of other countries around the world, Ghana certainly needs to prepare for the worst. The situation is exacerbated by the recent plunge of oil prices, which deprives the Ghanaian state of one of its most important sources of income, and therefore will make it harder to finance investments in the health sector.

As in other low and lower medium income countries (LMICs), basic conditions for both mitgation and suppression of Covid-19, the two primary tools against Covid-19, are unfavourable in Ghana. Hand washing and social distancing are challenging in many places mainly because of limited access to piped water and crowded living conditions. Case isolation (where confirmed cases are isolated from others) and home quarantine (where those who have been exposed and may be infected remain at home for 14 days to prevent infecting others) depend on the willingness of the population to comply with government and health service representatives, which can be a challenge because of fear of stigmatisation and lack of insight into the logic of the epidemic, i.e. the fact that persons with no or mild symptoms can transmit it to others who might then develop serious symptoms. Enforcement of lockdowns may not be possible outside of the big agglomerations.

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These challenges may be exacerbated by the prevalence of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. Mortality rates of persons who develop pneumonia or other lower respiratory tract infections, which are also typical for serious cases of Covid-19, are significantly higher in sub-Saharan Africa than in higher-income countries [5]. Such infections are responsible for more deaths than any other cause (around 20,000 annually) when considering all-age mortality in Ghana. Around 5,000 children younger than 5 years die from pneumonia each year in the country [6]. Under these conditions, the Coronavirus could easily lead to huge numbers of additional deaths.

While a fast spread of Covid-19 among the population of Ghana could thus have disastrous consequences, the pandemic will have far-reaching effects on health outcomes even if the virus will not directly cause a significant increase in mortality rates. This is because of indirect effects on health care provision and other determinants of well-being resulting from the measures taken to combat the spread of Covid-19. Such effects include unemployment and the resulting pressure on household incomes; increasing prices for convenience goods; and a widespread reluctance of sick persons, pregnant women and others who require care to seek medical assistance for fear of infection or being quarantined (see next section).

The combination of direct and indirect effects of the pandemic means that there is a high risk that country’s efforts in meeting health-related Sustainable Development Goals, such as the decrease in maternal and under-5 mortality, will be pushed back by years.

2.) General challenges facing Ghana in the current situation

The first cases of Covid-19 in the Volta Region were reported on 12 April only, but in the weeks before the measures taken by the government, reports in the media and communication in social networks have already started to affect daily life in even the remotest parts of the country.

The spread of misinformation

A major challenge is what has been dubbed the Corona “infodemic”, i.e. the enormous spread of myths, superstitions, misinformation and disinformation around the current epidemic. Some of these cause harm by lulling people into a false sense of security, e.g. by claiming that black people are immune to the virus or that it will be killed when exposed to more than 26°C. This myth may appeal to common sense because of the fact that most reported cases of infected individuals are among persons arriving to the country from outside of Africa. Due to the extremely low number of persons being tested for the virus in Ghana, however, it is easily possible that it has already spread widely among the endogenous population without being recognised. Some myths being spread have caused direct damage by making people try harmful types of self-medication such as drinking bleach. Misinformation tends to spread quickly mouth to mouth, especially in those parts of the country where only few inhabitants have access to television or mobile phones and where many cannot read English.

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Under-utilisation of health services

Anecdotal evidence suggests that residents even in regions far away from the Coronavirus hotspots in Ghana have started to avoid visits to hospitals and health posts, as they believe that these places expose them to persons who might pass on the virus. Decreasing rates of attended births were reported during the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic for most of Western Africa [7]. Availability of transport to move persons who require professional care to a health facility is also becoming harder to arrange.

The current practice of isolating persons who are believed may be infected with the Coronavirus makes matters worse. We received reports that in Adaklu and the city of Ho (which is situated close to Adaklu and provides the District’s population with advanced health services) individuals who visit a doctor because of symptoms that could be caused by Covid-19, or who for other reasons are thought to have been infected, are typically not allowed to return home, but are quarantined for 14 days in a building on the premises of the hospital. Naturally, many people will avoid visiting a health facility if they risk to be quarantined in this way, without proof that they are actually Corona-infected.

Unaffordability of products for personal hygiene

Market prices for soap and disinfectants, not to speak of protective face masks and clothing, have soared since the outbreak of the epidemic. This makes it much more difficult for people to take care of personal hygiene, such as frequent hand-washing, at a time when it is of much importance for containing the spread of Covid-19.

Increasing prices for convenience goods

Prices for all kinds of convenience goods, not only soap and infectants, have increased markedly in recent weeks. As a result, more households will find it diffuclt or impossible to supply all family members with sufficient amounts of nutrients. The government has responded by cutting electricity bills of private households by half (by 100% in the case of households with very low income) – a move which needs to be seen in the context of the general election scheduled for end of this year.

Unemployment and resulting loss of income

While prices increase, large numbers of employees and workers in the informal economy have lost their jobs or at least been asked to take unpaid leave as a result of the lockdown. Families who are already living close to the poverty line are particularly likely to suffer, which is bound to have a negative effect on their health.

Disruption of public life

The request of health authorities to avoid hand-shaking and the prohibition of religious gatherings and funerals affects behaviours that a being held sacred in the lives of Ghanaians. As Ghanaian journalist Elizabeth Ohene states in a report for the BBC:

Here in Ghana, there are some things that are sacred in our lives and nobody touches them under any circumstance: religion, handshakes and funerals. These are subjects that are not up for discussion and many people believe they define our very existence. [...] The ban on religious gatherings [...] is having a big impact on people for whom communal prayer and the discipline of the religious calendar are central to their lives.” [8]

Churches remained closed throughout Easter, the most sacred festival on Ghanaian Christians’ calendar. If this policy is going to be upheld for a longer period, a strong communication effort will be required to enforce it, and to avoid scapegoating. Under-reporting of health issues that may be caused by an infection with Covid-19 is also highly likely given that nobody wants to be known as the person who brought the virus into a community. Community ownership of activities against the spread of Covid-19 is urgently needed to improve compliance and counter feelings of inefficacy.

Mental well-being and domestic violence

Experts working in the area have voiced concerns that a lockdown such as currently in place in Accra, Tema and Kumasi could trigger an increase in domestic violence placing, in particular, women and children at risk. The psychological stress resulting from not being allowed to leave one’s home, under crowded living conditions such as prevalent across Ghana, may also lead to mental health problems in more general. Measures are needed to help families and communities cope with the situation, especially if lockdowns will be required to stay in place over a longer period.

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3.) Key challenges facing Adaklu District, Volta Region, Ghana

Adaklu District is one of the 18 Districts making up the Volta Region of the Republic of Ghana, with Adaklu-Waya as its capital. The District has a population of 36,391 according to the 2010 population and housing census (Ghana Statistical Service estimates put the 2019 population at 44,300). The large majority (~90%) of the workforce in the District are engaged in the agricultural sector.

The Adaklu District is one of the most deprived in the country. The 2015 Ghana Poverty Mapping Project [9] published by the Ghana Statistical Service found the incidence of poverty, i.e. the proportion of the District’s population living below the national poverty line, to be by far the highest (89.7%) in the Volta Region (average: 33.3%) and the second highest in the whole country. Poverty in Adaklu is not only widespread but also severe: According to the indicator “depth of poverty”, which measures how much below the poverty line the poor’s standard of living is on average, Adaklu shows the 3rd worst performance of Ghana’s 216 Districts. As opposed to some of the other poor parts of Ghana, however, inequality in Adaklu District is very low – lower than in any other District of the Volta Region.

The widespread economic hardship means that many residents rely on subsistence agriculture production to make ends meet. To top up their measly income, the majority of women in Adaklu are engaged in food processing and petty trading as well as handicraft production for their livelihood.

Concrete challenges related to fighting Covid-19 in Adaklu include the following:

  • Lack of potable drinking water in many parts of the Adaklu District;
  • Low spending power to purchase soap and disinfectants, as well as comvenience goods in general, which have become much more expensive since the outbreak of the current epidemic;
  • Living conditions in settlements in most parts of Adaklu do not allow isolating family members from other members of the community;
  • High share of residents who cannot read or understand English and therefore depend on information passed on by other members of the community.

4.) How to respond to the Covid-19 challenge

The discussion above showed that much depends on the way in which the measures taken against the spread of Covid-19 are being put into practice. In this regard, Shannon Smith from the African Center for Strategic Studies stresses that:

maintaining public trust during the course of this pandemic will be essential. Governments should communicate rather than simply compel. Strategic communications are a crucial element for public health. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa ended ultimately because of behavior change under very difficult circumstances. This required community input, local interlocutors, and communication.[10]

Other experts agree that the level of the community and family are of key importance in fighting the disease:

Like Ebola, Covid-19 is a family disease, in the sense that many infections occur in the home. Restrictions on travel can slow the spread of the disease, but it also helps if individuals and families understand infection pathways and implement domestic precautions.” [11]

How can communities and families be engaged within their living environment in the fight against spread of Covid-19 most effectively, beyond simply targeting them with public health information messages? Is it possible to use approaches of co-creation and co-development to establish ownership of measures taken against the disease? And what role could modern information and communication technology (ICT) play? Can the fight against Covid-19 benefit from the huge numbers of smartphones and the dense mobile network in place even in the most peripheral parts of the country?

What is needed is an approach could help share good practice in dealing with the Covid-19 threat as effectively as possible, but also help develop and establish novel approaches towards stopping the spread of the virus in ways which are adapted to local conditions and needs – in direct partnership with communities and key stakeholders such as community health workers and representatives of the GHS.

Ongoing activities

Since mid-March 2020, Grow Your Dream Foundation (GYDF) team has included information on Covid-19 in their activities in communities across Adaklu. In meetings at community level with key members of each village GYDF is stressing the need to take seriously the threat posed by Covid-19. Special emphasis is placed on educating community members about false information that is being spread via social networks and word of mouth, such as the myth that Africans are immune to the virus. The practical advice given includes the need to frequently wash your hands with running water and soap. Unfortunately only small parts of Adaklu Districts are connected by the piped water network, which means that hand washing poses a challenge. Commercial suppliers offer so-called Veronica Buckets [12], which consist of a wooden stand which holds the bucket, towel and soap, and a washbasin placed below the tap to collect the used water. Veronica Buckets are a Ghanaian invention serving as a simple way to encourage proper hand washing.

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The price for purchasing a Veronica Bucket is modest, but may still be too high to make it affordable for the poorest communities in the country, such as in Adaklu. The team of GYDF have come up with a solution which is even more inexpensive: By fixing a tap to a used canister and placing it on a fence or branch fork (see photo), a hand washing facility can be implemented for very little money. As canisters of this type are usually readily available in each community (since they are used to transport fresh water from nearby rivers), the device can be set up quickly. Other communities already have hand washing facilities in place as a result of an earlier initiative by an American NGO. These are called “tip tap” and consist of a simple structure made from readily available materials. Often to be found by a latrine or cowshed, a tip tap allows  residents to wash their hands by pressing a lever with their foot, thereby reducing the risk of transmitting a disease by touching a traditional tap.

While the rural population can comparatively easily be convinced of the need for hand washing, some of the other changes to established behaviour are more controversial. Many Ghanaians find it difficult to replace the obligatory handshake by safer methods of greeting, such as a wave, a nod or a bow. The same is true for maintaining at least one metre distance between oneself and anybody else (social distancing). What is more, the fear of stigmatisation (and of being quarantined in central facilities) can make individuals with symptoms that may be related to Covid-19, such as coughing or sneezing, try to hide their condition rather than seek medical attention. To convince community members of the need to behave according to the recommendations of the health authorities will often require a concerted effort and continuous communication, including the will to listen to people’s fears and wishes. Ideally, members of the community should get the possibility to discuss and co-develop ways of suitable behaviour which are workable and acceptable by all those who are concerned.

First efforts are therefore already being made at local level, in cooperation with the rural communities in Adaklu, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to mitigate the consequences of the epidemic, should infection occur in this part of the country as well. HITA is currently in close contact with the Grow Your Life Foundation team as well as with our longer established local partners and with a number of European development aid organizations to discuss ways and means of how our ICT, mLearning and mHealth based approach could be applied in the current situation and what steps are needed next.

We will publish more information here as it becomes available.

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Article PDF: Report – Fighting Covid 19 in Adaklu

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Sources:


[1]     Oleribe, O. O., Salako, B. L., Ka, M. M., Akpalu, A., McConnochie, M., Foster, M., & Taylor-Robinson, S. D. (2015) ‘Ebola virus disease epidemic in West Africa: lessons learned and issues arising from West African countries’, Clinical medicine, 15(1): 54–57. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4954525/

[3]     Healio Primary Care (2020) ‘Seasonality of COVID-19 remains uncertain’, online article, 18 March, www.healio.com/primary-care/infectious-diseases/news/online/%7B0a14f604-44fb-4d50-9df8-b10af77fe519%7D/seasonality-of-covid-19-remains-uncertain

[4]     Burke, J. & Okiror, S. (2020) ‘Africa’s fragile health systems rush to contain coronavirus’, 20 March, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/20/africas-fragile-health-systems-rush-to-contain-coronavirus

[5]     Abbey, M. et al. (2018) ‘Pneumonia in Ghana—a need to raise the profile’, International Health, 10(1): 4–7 https://doi.org/10.1093/inthealth/ihx062

[6]     ibid.

[7]    Oleribe et al. (2015), see footnote 1

[8]   Ohene, E. (2020) ‘Coronavirus: Why Ghana has gone into mourning after mass funeral ban’, online article, BBC News, 26 March, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52010868

[9]   Ghana Statistical Service (ed)(2015) ‘Poverty Map for Ghana’, Accra: GSS. http://www2.statsghana.gov.gh/docfiles/publications/POVERTY%20MAP%20FOR%20GHANA-05102015.pdf

[10]   Smith, S. (2020) ‘Managing Health and Economic Priorities as the COVID-19 Pandemic Spreads in Africa’, online article, Washington, DC: Africa Center for Strategic Studies, https://africacenter.org/spotlight/managing-health-economic-priorities-covid-19-pandemic-spreads-africa/

[11]   Richards, P. (2020) ‘What Might Africa Teach the World? Covid-19 and Ebola Virus Disease Compared’, online article, African Arguments, 17 March, https://africanarguments.org/2020/03/17/what-might-africa-teach-the-world-covid-19-and-ebola-virus-disease-compared/

[12]   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronica_bucket

Worktrip to Ho – Report

March 12, 2020 in Ghana, Projekte by guenther_michels

WORKTRIP REPORT BY KARSTEN GAREIS: This year’s HITA delegation is travelling in two waves: Thomas (HITA chairman) and Daniel (the youngest member of the HITA board) arrive on 28 December already, together with Petra and Rachida, the two teachers of the Frankfurt Carlo-Mierendorff-School. Karsten (also a member of the HITA board) and the two IT-technicians Leonhard and Johannes follow on 2 January.

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The main objective of the trip is to check and – where necessary – repair the eLearning infrastructure that HITA has been operating since 2018 together with its local partners at the School of Nursing and Midwifery (SONAM), part of the University of Health and Applied Sciences (UHAS), in Ho (Volta Region). In addition, the number of computer workstations in the eLearning labs of this training facility for nurses and midwives is to be further expanded. In discussions with the teaching staff and the project management, it is also necessary to determine what experience has been gained with the integration of eLearning and mLearning in everyday training. On the basis of the results Thomas, Daniel and Karsten want to plan the further procedure with the partner institutions in Ho in order to ensure a sustainable improvement of nursing and midwifery training in this part of Ghana.

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Petra and Rachida, who travelled to Ghana in Easter 2019 for the first time, want to use their stay to officially conclude the partnership between the Carlo Mierendorff School and one of the local general education schools, the Mawuko Girls Senior High School, and to inaugurate a modern computer lab as a first step of the cooperation. In addition, the other schools that were visited last spring are not to be left empty-handed either – they too will each receive a larger number of computers, which will be installed and networked by HITA in cooperation with the local IT specialists.

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The third project is to hand over donated school material, computers and hospital equipment to the population of the Adaklu district. HITA Chairman Thomas was appointed “Development Chief” of Adaklu in 2018; now we have joined forces with the traditional head of the area, Togbe Lablulu, and a group of local development workers to tackle some of the district’s main challenges.

>>> CONTINUE READING >>> FULL REPORT

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Working Together for Adaklu – Container Project II

January 28, 2020 in Ghana, Projekte by guenther_michels

Working Together for Adaklu – Handover of Schoolbags, Computer Labs and Medical Equipment to the People of Adaklu

HITA, our German NGO engaged in the health and education sectors of Ghana, the Chances Foundation, a Ghanaian NGO engaged in health and educational interventions, and DreamsAlive, a vibrant team of development workers operating in the Adaklu District and awaiting registration as a Foundation, have joined forces to empower children and adolescents across the region. On Sunday, 5 January 2020, these three organisations had the honour of handing over a range of carefully chosen donations to Togbe Lablulu in a celebration held in Adaklu-Waya, the capital of the Adaklu District.

First, 80 school bags were distributed to selected children (girls) of Waya and four surrounding villages. All of the children selected come from vulnerable backgrounds and face the risk of inadequate access to school education due to their family’s inability to pay for even the most basic equipment. The donation is based on a proposition of the DreamsAlive Foundation, whose work is based on the premise that empowering girls and women is one of the most effective means to boost the development of disadvantaged communities. Indeed, there is now a strong consensus among development experts that giving girls the same opportunities as boys to fulfil their potential is the way ahead for faster and more self-sustaining development.

55 bags (each of which filled with contents including colouring pencils, a name badge and an exercise book) were presented to school-age girls who had been transported to the site of the event from Waya and surrounding villages by courtesy of Togbe Lablulu; the remaining 25 school bags will be delivered to more remote villages by the team of DreamsAlive in the coming days. This activity benefits form the in-depth knowledge and experience of the DreamsAlive team about the needs of the most deprived citizens of the Adaklu district.

Second, two new computer labs have been set up by the German HITA at Adaklu Senior High School in Waya and the Basic School in Adaklu-Hasu. HITA has extensive track record in setting up modern computer labs in educational institutions across Ghana, focussing especially on nursing and midwifery education settings. This experience is used in Adaklu to enable more school children to benefit from IT-based learning methods, thereby letting them benefit fully from the potential of computers and the Internet to improve learning outcomes and prepare pupils for the jobs of the future.

Third, the EPC Clinic in Waya, which is currently in the process of becoming fully operational, was provided with a range of medical equipment donated by health institutions in Germany. The equipment will contribute to an improvement of health care services to children and adults in Waya and the whole of Adaklu. Special emphasis is placed on guaranteeing that the donated equipment is tailored to the needs and conditions of the target community, that it is fully operable and that it will be maintained to last over many years to come. This is one way in which HITA sets itself apart from many earlier donor-lead initiatives that, although well-intended, did not contribute tangibly to development because of too little thought given to maintenance and sustainbility over the longer term.

All of the donations stem from private persons, schools, health institutions and companies in Germany. These donations had been collected through the previous year by HITA. The activities are part of a longer-term plan of HITA, the Chances Foundation and DreamsAlive to work together for boosting development in the Adaklu District. Among the speakers of the event were Togbe Lablulu, chief of the Adaklu District; Mr. Richard Atiemo, Health Coordinator for the EP Church, Adaklu; Mr. Samuel K. Taylor, Headmaster of the Adaklu Senior High School; Mr. Jacob Ahiave of the DreamsAlive Foundation; Mr. Thomas Erkert and Mr. Karsten Gareis, Head and Board Member, respectively, of HITA. As MC Mr. Nananyaw Bediako was guiding through the programme.

Special thanks were given to Mr. Emmanuel Chance, Owner-Manager of Chances Hotel and Head of the Chances Foundation, who could not be present for health reasons. Without Mr. Chance‘s hands-on support none of the donations would have been possible.

Christmas presents after Christmas: HITA will equip more schools

December 17, 2019 in Ghana, Partner, Projekte, Verein by guenther_michels

HITA-Working trip to Ho from 27th of December 2019 till 12th of January 2020 - As in previous years, members of the association will travel to Ho and the Volta Region to equip seven schools with computer labs and networks. Our second container with high-quality technical and medical equipment or donations such as 80 school backpacks is currently on the way to Accra in Ghana. The two teachers Rachida Aouad and Petra Knott from the Carlo Mierendorff School in Frankfurt, the HITA board members Karsten Gareis, Daniel Gerlach Thomas Erkert and our two IT technicians Christoph Welge and Leonhard Dittmann will donate their time and vacation days to support HITA e. V. and the students and teachers in Ghana. Our activities at the turn of the year will have various focuses. So we will this time:

>>>    Setting up another computer lab at the School for Nursing and Midwifery (SONAM) at the University of Ho for Applied Sciences (UHAS)

>>>    Signing of cooperation declaration between Carlo Mierendorff School, HITA e. V. and Mawuko Girls’ Senior High School

>>>    Installation of a computer lab with 40 computers at Mawuko Girls’ Senior High School

>>>    Handing over of donations from pupils of the Carlo-Mierendorff School to the Springs School in Ho

>>>    Installation of two more computer labs at OLA Girls’ Senior High School and Mawuli High School

>>>    Handing over of 80 backpacks to disadvantaged pupils in the Adaklu community

>>>    Equipping smaller schools in Adaklu and HASU with PCs

>>>    Equip various facilities with medical-technical devices, collected medicines and important furnish like hospital beds, loungers, etc.

You can certainly imagine that your fellow travellers will hardly be bored during the two weeks. We’ve set ourselves a lot of goals. All this is only possible due to your support! We hope that you will continue to help us in the future so that we can implement our projects. We are also pleased about urgently needed further members and sponsors, about donations in kind and cooperation. Follow our work at www.hita-ev.org (on www.hita-ev.org/?lang=en you get the English version). We also put interviews and audio podcasts from Germany and Ghana on HITA Radio at www.hearthis.at/hita-radio online. Before we left, we recorded a conversation with chairman Thomas Erkert, in which he explained the exact procedures of the trip, introduced the schools and also expressed a big thank you to all supporters and participants.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2020!

The Board of Healthcare Information Technology for Africa e.V.

Thomas Erkert, Daniel Schleßmann and Günther Michels

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Two teachers on their way to Ghana – Carlo Mierendorff to Mawuku

December 17, 2019 in Ghana, HITA Radio, Partner, Projekte by guenther_michels

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The teachers Petra Knott and Rachida Aouad from the Carlo-Mierendorff-Schule in Frankfurt will make their way to the school on the 27th of April. December together with HITA again on the trip to Ghana. During this second visit the cooperation agreement between the two schools is signed with the Mawuku School in the Volta Region. During their first stay in April 2019, the two teachers visited various local schools with HITA in order to select a partner institution. They got to know teachers and students, but also the country and its people, taught themselves, were able to develop ideas for projects together with the other teachers and fell in love with the fantastic Ghanaian food. After difficult and close considerations, the choice for the partner school finally went to the Mawuku Girls Senior High School. A teacher exchange is planned for 2020 and Skype lessons between the pupils in Ghana and Germany are to be created. The intercultural exchange between the students supports political and social science education, but also geography, history and above all the direct practical use of the English language. At the same time the students get to know each other’s culture and society and practice communication.

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The project started two years ago with lectures of HITA Chairman Thomas Erkert in the school classes. The pupils were immediately motivated, had creative ideas and have so far organised various donation projects and action days by themselves with help of their teachers. At the moment there is again a donation of toys for pupils in Ghana in the second HITA container on the way to the Ghanaian capital and harbour Accra, but money could also be collected by the pupils with flea markets and cake sales.

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HITA is laying the foundations so that the pupils in Ghana can communicate with the pupils in Frankfurt. Our NGO installs the conditions for the use of the new technical possibilities, establishes computer labs and Internet or Intranet connections. In an interview Petra Knott and Rachida Aouad talk about their first experiences in Ghana, the projects and the upcoming plans for the upcoming trip.

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Rachida Aouad and Petra Knott during their school visits in April 2019.

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The four pupils “sacrificed” themselves for the project. For a small price you could buy water bombs and throw them at the brave targets.

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The Frankfurt teachers taught the students something in Ghana, as a thank you the students then taught Rachida and Petra a Ghanaian dance.

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On one of the action days the students even produced a “Ghana Cake” with glaze in flag colours.

Our second container is almost full! We are still looking for donations!

September 15, 2019 in Ghana, Projekte by guenther_michels

The HITA team was busy again and loaded our second 40ft container on 19th July with high quality medical and technical equipment. A big thank you goes to everyone who has donated so far! The loading area is almost full, but we are still looking for equipment and need your help with the donation. It’s all about SSD hard drives, keyboards and mice. We will again equip hospitals, schools and university facilities in and around Ho in the Volta region. On board are now new hospital beds with much needed mattresses and medical supplies, and we will equip two new computer labs with a total of 160 computers. For this we still lack 40 to 50 hard drives, but also the already mentioned keyboards and mice. Above all, with our donations, we support the training of medical staff, but also the staff in existing facilities and improve the patient situation on site enormously. In many places, for example, births are only performed on blankets on the floor. There are simply no beds available or which in misserablem condition. Information about possible donations you can easily via our online form submit to us: Donation Project: Support HITA.

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If you want to get a better idea of ​​how this project works, how we work and what happens after the shipment, then you will find our detailed container action from last year here: Donation Container – WLAN Implementation 2018.

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HITA project trip to Ho in the Volta region – April 2019

June 17, 2019 in Ghana, Partner, Projekte by guenther_michels

14. – 22. April 2019 – Report

The HITA delegation this time consists of Thomas, Daniel and Karsten, all of whom have been in Ghana for previous HITA stays, and newcomers Petra and Rachida. The latter two represent the Carlo Mierendorff School, an integrated secondary school from Frankfurt, which aims to enter into a longer-term cooperation with a high school in Ghana. Petra and Rachida want to establish local contacts to a number of high schools. Later, one of these will be selected with the objective to agree on a series of joint activities that will lead to permanent Ghanaian-German cooperation. HITA will be involved in this cooperation as far as IT-specific topics are concerned: from equipping schools with IT infrastructure to training pupils in the use and maintenance of information and communication technology.

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Die Begrüßung in Chance´s Hotel

Early in the morning on Palm Sunday we set off for Ghana. After 9 hours, we reach Accra via Brussels. The new terminal testifies to the economic growth of recent years – of all African countries, Ghana has one of the highest growth rates. The problem is that too little of this is reaching the general population. The expansion is due to the export of crude oil and gold, i.e. sectors that contribute a lot to the gross national product, but in which comparatively few people are employed. As a result, Ghana continues to suffer from high unemployment. Experts agree that the country must make considerable efforts in the field of education. Only then will the favourable macroeconomic development also contribute to sustained improvements in the quality of life for the general population. The vast majority of Ghanaian women and men continue to live in the simplest of circumstances, with completely inadequate health services.

The Development Chief back in Adaklu (Copy)

At the airport, HITA partner Emmanuel Chance is waiting for us to take his minibus to Ho, the capital of the Volta region, four hours away. Last year, HITA equipped a large nursing and midwifery school with a powerful computer lab plus campus WLAN (see the report here). We are curious to see what will await us once we reach the site: Have the teaching staff started to establish computer- and smartphone-supported learning (eLearning and mLearning) in everyday student life, as it was planned? After a bumpy ride as usual, during which we are accompanied by torrential rainfall, we reach Ho in the evening. The staff of Chance’s Hotel greets us warmly. We are welcomed with a delicious dinner and Ghanaian beer, then we fall exhausted into bed.

The welcome at Chances Hotel

In the coming days we will visit four general schools that have been recommended to us by our friends in Ho. We already know the Springs School from our last visit. It is housed in the buildings of a former garage. The teachers have only scarce means at their disposal for their work. After the welcoming Petra and Rachida suggest to do a group work with the pupils. The objective is to teach them some general information about Germany, such as food, school, seasons, football, etc. First, random groups are formed. Then the small groups deal with a topic, read it together, look at the corresponding pictures and are asked tp remember at least two important pieces of information. It is astonishing that most groups are able to memorize almost everything. The final presentation takes place in the so-called „ball bearing“: Two pupils who have worked on different topics face each other in an inner and outer circle and tell each other in a constant change what they have learned about Germany.

Meeting at UHAS Headquarters (Copy)

The other three high schools we visit, each with more than 1,000 students, are considerably larger but better equipped: Mawuli School and Mawuko Girls Senior High School, both founded by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana, and the Catholic OLA Girls Senior High School. Here too Petra and Rachida took the opportunity to carry out the exercise described above in group work with some classes, which was again very well received.

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We are thrilled by the enthusiasm of the hundreds of students who welcome us at each of the high schools. Not least because of the huge size of the classes, which are usually between 100 and 200, school lessons at these places usually consist almost exclusively of frontal teaching. Nevertheless, it only takes a few moments until the students have understood the basic principles of gour group work and apply them with a lot of enthusiasm. The feedback from the teaching staff is also excellent. We then discuss with the school management and the teachers present some possibilities for cooperation, e.g. exchange of teachers, joint project work with regular online meetings via Skype, possible student internships, support with teaching materials, e.g. for the natural sciences, etc.

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In the coming weeks, Petra and Rachida will discuss the next steps with the school management of the Carlo Mierendorff School. The plan is to establish a firm cooperation relationship with one of the four schools. HITA will explore how we can support the schools in the future according to their needs in terms of ICT equipment and IT teacher capacity.

Another focus of our trip is to check how the Campus WLAN and the HITA Computer Lab installed last year are used at the SONAM in Ho. While the entire installation was completed by HITA in 2018, it is the responsibility of the school management and faculty to ensure optimal use of the new infrastructure in everyday school life. A working group, in which the SONAM-IT team and some selected tutors participate, has used the last few months to set up an eLearning platform (based on Moodle, an open source software) and to use it in the classroom as part of a pilot operation.

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Our interviews with the teachers involved and the IT team show that good progress has been made. 20 courses, which are an integral part of the nursing training, were selected for the pilot. For each course, a work area has been set up on the eLearning platform where teachers can post course information and learning materials. So far, Moodle has mainly been used for tests/exams in the form of multiple-choice question catalogues. Whereas previously paper sheets were used for this purpose, the tests are now carried out online, for which students have to visit the HITA Computer Lab at a fixed time. This brings considerable advantages from the tutor’s point of view, as they can now access the test results immediately after the end of the session. Correction by hand is no longer necessary. This gives teachers more time for exchanging information with students and preparing courses. 650 pupils are already taking part in the pilot operation and are thus acquiring valuable knowledge in the effective use of computers.

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We spend a day at the HITA-Lab and observe the participants at one of the online exams. Two IT specialists look after the room, provide technical support and give advice. This form of intensive support is necessary because most students, while very familiar with their smartphones, have little experience in using desktop computers, and therefore need support time and again. The eLearning system, which is installed on the school’s local LAN and can therefore be used independently of an Internet connection, works without problems and is lightning fast. The teachers involved in the pilot will receive practical help uploading content to the Moodle platform. Some have already become real Moodle experts and swap insider tips. The need for piloting is demonstrated by the fact that standardised procedures have not yet been established for all eventualities. On this day, the project team recognizes that the students still have opportunities to cheat, which need to be eliminated by changing some procedures (e.g. setting up an additional, temporary password protection).

Lecturer entering test questions into Moodle (Copy)

Our observations indicate that the teachers accept the eLearning system and the new computer infrastructure very well. They also appera to be very willing to make the necessary effort to participate in training courses and to familiarise themselves with the system. This was not necessarily to be expected, because the workload of the tutors was already enormous before, not least because of the strongly increasing number of students in recent years.

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We discuss with the project team how things should continue in the coming months. The teachers would welcome support in setting up teaching materials on the eLearning system. There is a wish to be able to post video clips, practice guides, textbooks and specialist literature on the platform. It is still unclear which content from the Internet can be used for this purpose and how to proceed practically. We suggest setting up a central eLibrary where all essential texts and media content can be stored and used by teachers for their own purposes. In the medium term, the eLibrary will provide significant efficiency gains for teachers and students. HITA will participate in the procurement of the electronic teaching materials, for which we can use our online access to the SONAM Moodle platform.

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Preparing online test in HITA Computer Lab (Copy)

There still seem to be reservations among the teaching staff about the consistent use of smartphones for learning purposes. Virtually all pupils have a smartphone, but so far it has only been used informally in everyday student life. In our opinion, a separate pilot project will be necessary to convince the tutors of the advantages of mobile learning and to work out deployment scenarios together with them. This is one of the main tasks that HITA will dedicate itself to in the coming months.

Team Work at Spring School 1 (Copy)

With HITA partner Emmanuel Chance we discuss our plan to establish our own vocational school for the practical training of young locals. Our observations both at the nursing and midwifery school and at the general education schools in the region confirm that Ghana’s education system is not at all capable of producing the required number of skilled workers needed to set up and, in particular, maintain the country’s infrastructure. There is a lack of knowledge on how to ensure the long-term operation of computer systems, for example. Far too many devices remain unused because no specialist is available to carry out repairs and adapt them to local needs. Chance has therefore been pursuing the idea of establishing a technical vocational school for his region for some time. HITA is currently investigating the possibilities of winning partners for this project in Germany, based on the good experience with the dual education system in our country.

Giving Presents to Spring School (Copy)

Easter Saturday brings us to Adaklu, where we visit the Chief and his wife, called Mama, and thank them for last year’s enthronement ceremony of Thomas as Development Chief [see our 2018 report]. Adaklu is a rural region with the imposing Mount Adaklu towering up in the centre. As is typical for the remote parts of Ghana, the population of Adaklu is inadequately supplied with the bare essentials – in particular drinking water is lacking. Waya, the main town, is not connected to the mains water supply. Drinking water is transported to Waya by motorbike in canisters. Since this costs a lot of money, many inhabitants rather drink the dirty water from the only river in the region, the Kpedze.

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The last high school we attend is the only high school in the Adaklu district, the Adaklu Senior High School. Here 45 teachers are respoinsible for almost 600 grammar school students; this number will rise to 1,000 in the coming school year. Conditions in this rural region are considerably worse than in the schools in Ho, which we have already got to know. The school principal is visibly concerned that he will not be able to provide the students, who have gathered for our visit on the school forecourt, with sufficient drinking water. A further problem is the electricity supply: the electricity bills represent a considerable burden on the school’s tight budget. Initial attempts to generate electricity from solar energy were successful, but the necessary funds for expansion are not available. We agree with the school management to establish contacts with potential development aid institutions in Germany. HITA is also committed to improving the school’s equipment with computer technology. In particular, the maintenance of existing equipment is proving to be difficult time and again because there are too few trained service providers available. We spend the evening together with friends of Emmanuel Chance on the grounds of his villa, which also houses the HITA office for the Volta Region. We are making new contacts with a number of committed locals, many of whom come from Adaklu but now live in Accra or abroad. The three teachers present are particularly energetic and welcome the opportunity to work with HITA on innovative solutions to meet the country’s many challenges.

New equipment for SONAM (Copy)

After the exhausting day in Adaklu, we spend Easter Sunday for writing our various reports, sorting the extensive photo and video material – and resting on our shady terrace. In addition, we distribute small gifts to the hotel staff, who supported us so energetically and took care of our physical well-being. Before we fly back to Frankfurt on Easter Monday, we use our stay in the capital Accra for an informal meeting with a veteran Ghanaian diplomat, who has excellent contacts to the Ministry of Health. He promises to arrange a meeting with the incumbent minister. HITA will use this meeting to ensure that our long-standing good relationship with the Ministry continues under the current government. Specifically, we want to discuss how HITA can use the extensive experience gained at the Nursing and Midwifery School in Ho to modernise other educational institutions in all parts of Ghana.

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Taking some time out in the pool (Copy)

HITA Yearbook 2018

February 13, 2019 in Allgemein, Ghana, NGO, Projekte, Verein by guenther_michels

It is now fresh from the pressure and we can hold the beautiful work in our hands! Our yearbook of 2018 is ready and available for members, friends, supporters and interested parties.

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The yearbook is designed in A4 format, consists of 58 pages and is equipped with 169 informative and beautiful pictures. The paper printed on glossy paper is bound in a hardcover cover. Last year’s projects have been extensively documented, from the shipment of our first container with technical equipment and high-quality medical equipment to the installation of the first campus WLAN in West Africa at the University of Health and Applied Science in Ho in the Volta region.

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Our visits to Ghana are enlighteningly illustrated and presented in detail, and informative reports have been compiled. Compact and practical, the most important information at a glance with additional data on budget, expenses, planning dates and results on evaluations. We can show what has meanwhile been implemented in cooperation with many stakeholders from different countries. But there is still so much to do and we are only just starting our business.

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There are many ways to support HITA, another is the purchase of our HITA Yearbook 2018. The extensive work can be purchased from us at a price of 55 euros. Since the copies are not produced in series, but are printed on order, resulting in printing costs of 52.97 euros. So there is not really any budget left to support more schools in Ghana. But we also offer a discount in combination with a membership and of course we look forward to every other donation. If you are interested in placing an order, send us an email to info@hita-ev.org.

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Prices for the HITA Yearbook 2018

Unit price:                                                         55 Euros

Kombi with full membership:                         105 Euro    (instead of 115 Euro)

Combi with reduced membership:                  80 Euro     (instead of 90 Euro)

Combi with sponsoring membership:            300 Euro    (instead of 310 Euro)

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