COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020. Since then, the pandemic has caused significant impact on health systems around the world, disrupting all aspects of human life including the delivery of routine health services.
As part of Ghana’s recovery efforts, it has therefore become necessary to support the continuity of essential health services to address health issues like malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This is to facilitate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 on Good Health and Wellbeing by 2030.
In this regard, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service, with funding from the Government of Japan, has been implementing a series of interventions to strengthen health systems at the community level for improved health outcomes.
The project dubbed: ‘Strengthening Community Health System to Support the Continuity of Essential Services for the Vulnerable during and post COVID-19 Pandemic’ is strengthening the capacity of health facilities and Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) in underserved urban communities to provide health services.
To underscore the importance of CHPS in healthcare delivery, it is worth repeating the profound words of the Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Ghana, Sukhrob Khoshmukhamedov, when he said “for us to achieve universal health coverage and SDG 3, we must bring healthcare services to the doorstep of communities. This is a pragmatic strategy that can promote access and equity in health service provision”.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony of a fully equipped CHPS facility at Chorkor Chemuena as part of the project, the Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, H.E. MOCHIZUKI Hisanobu highlighted the need for sustainable healthcare initiatives to overcome health challenges.
“COVID-19 has placed a heavy burden on health systems and consequently affected the delivery of essential health services. We must strengthen health systems by building the capacity of health facilities to respond to health emergencies”, added H.E. MOCHIZUKI Hisanobu.
This project is significant in several ways. It is bringing health service delivery to the doorsteps of the most vulnerable in society and helping to ensure that no one is left behind. Moreover, it is simultaneously enhancing the capacities of community health systems, communities, vulnerable groups such as women, children, persons living with HIV, persons living with non-communicable diseases and slum dwellers for the uptake of health services during and post COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, thanks to the project interventions, 100 community health management committee members, community health volunteers and community health officers in the Ga Central Municipality and the Accra Metropolis in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana have gained the requisite knowledge and skills to strengthen essential health service provision.
In addition, through series of engagements with community members, over 200 community leaders, including women leaders are now aware of the available services within their communities and are poised to support other community members to take full advantage.
“I am particularly very happy for the pregnant women and children in this community. Previously we used to struggle to go to Korle Bu Polyclinic, but now with this CHPS compound, pregnant women will not have to struggle to access quality healthcare”, noted Naa Adokor Gyamfi, Queen Mother of Chorkor.
Indeed, 22 CHPS zones in Accra Metropolis and Ga Central Municipality are benefitting from the project, with Chorkor Chemuena receiving a fully equipped CHPS compound and Anyaa receiving a patient care block in Anyaa Polyclinic, whilst the other zones have received over 60 essential medical and operational equipment including weighing and height scale, adult and pediatric stethoscope, digital blood pressure apparatus, refrigerator thermometer, motorbikes and tricycles, and tablets.
To facilitate effective health surveillance in the era of COVID, especially at the borders of Ghana, the project is also providing mobile laboratories at Aflao, Elubo, Kotoka International Airport, and Paga points of entries to strengthen case detection and management for COVID-19 and future public health emergencies.
It is worth noting that if the pandemic has taught the world any lesson, it is that leaving others behind in the access to quality healthcare services is a potent threat to the health of all. This is better summarized in the powerful words of the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, when she stated, “No one will ever be truly safe until everyone is safe.”
Therefore, the time to build strong community health systems that truly work for all is now or never.