Many of you will be familiar with the AfriKids Medical Centre – a critical primary hospital which provides healthcare free of charge to poor families in northern Ghana. In a typical week, we deliver babies, tend to road accident injuries and most commonly, treat malaria. But this has not been a typical week for any of us, and on Monday, we received our first suspected case of COVID-19.
I’m very pleased to say our patient has recovered well under the care of two of our wonderful AfriKids Medical Centre staff - our Medical Director, Dr Emma, and Francis, the Emergency Unit Nurse. But it hasn’t been easy, with very limited PPE and no COVID-19-specific training yet provided to health workers in northern Ghana. This is not the first time we have faced this sort of challenge though, and staff are researching advice online and following the guidelines given during the Ebola crisis not long ago.
Out in the community, we continue to spread public health messaging. A vital part of this is that official messaging is all in English, so we are delivering it in local languages to communities with high levels of illiteracy and limited English. Northern Ghana is not yet in full lock down, so people are continuing their normal daily activities - farming, trading, etc. though as we help spread the word, more people are practising social distancing and enhanced personal hygiene. We are working to source buckets and hand washing supplies to distribute to rural communities, supporting the efforts of the authorities and local churches who are also doing what they can. The cost of hand sanitiser has tripled in the last few weeks and is no longer available in the north, so we are also working to procure large quantities of this and PPE safely from southern Ghana to help families and community health facilities, especially those which do not have running water.
We are anticipating further challenges, especially if further lock down restrictions come in. This is not a place where people can shut the doors of their homes and order groceries and prescriptions online. The price of food and essentials is rising very rapidly with little regulation. To ask people to stop going out to tend to their limited crops is to ask them to stop feeding their families, so we will look at practical advice to help them stay safe within the bounds of what is feasible. With almost 200,000 people on our books, we cannot provide emergency food support to everyone, but we are reaching out to partners who may be able to help if it comes to this, and are closely involved with the national emergency response discussions and plans, including with UNICEF.
A huge thank you again to our incredible staff in the UK and Ghana who have come together more than ever to manage around this huge challenge resourcefully, creatively and without any complaints. Also, to our wonderful supporters, many of whom have sent us messages of support and encouragement which have really helped motivate and uplift us, thank you so much for your kindness.
Charlie and Nich