The United Nations Development programme (UNDP) has, in partnership with the Ghana Health Service (GHS), inaugurated a new laboratory facility at the border in Paga in the Kassena Nankana West District in the Upper East Region.
It is the last facility to be handed over, as similar facilities have already been constructed at Aflao in the Volta Region, Elubo in the Western Region and the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in the Greater Accra Region with funding support from the government of Japan.
The project, which aims to strengthen community health systems to support the continuity of essential services for the vulnerable during and post-COVID-19 pandemic, also involved the training of more than 80 health staff at the borders to enhance their pandemic preparedness.
The laboratory facility has a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PRC) room, Sluice and Phlebotomy rooms, a main laboratory room, a laboratory manager’s office, a kitchenette, a changing room and washrooms.
The Paga laboratory also has a GeneXpert machine, the only machine in the entire district which would be linked to the network of GeneXperts within the region to strengthen overall health service delivery.
Additionally, it would help improve the diagnosis of tuberculosis, HIV and COVID-19 within the immediate border communities and beyond.
At a ceremony to officially inaugurate the project last Tuesday, the UNDP Resident Representative, Dr Angela Lusigi, said while points of entry were of strategic importance, border communities were most susceptible when economic, conflict and health-related threats crossed borders.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for Ghana and other neighbouring communities, as many entry points became pathways for the introduction and spread of infectious diseases.
The new laboratory
She added that the pandemic exposed and aggravated fundamental weaknesses in Ghana’s preparedness architecture, especially at the points of entry, saying “Many countries around the world, including Ghana, were caught off guard when the pandemic struck.”
“Indeed, an assessment by the UNDP and the GHS found that many points of entry in Ghana lacked the needed capacities, logistics and infrastructure to adequately respond to public health emergencies,” she said.
Dr Lusigi mentioned that Ghana needed to be better prepared and operationally ready to respond to new and emerging infectious disease threats, saying “We must invest in pandemic preparedness as there is a higher cost of not doing so.”
She stressed further that the cost of effective pandemic preparedness was a fraction of the cost of responding to an emergency without adequate preparedness.
Key areas, she indicated investment could be done included strengthening disease surveillance and health systems to enable data collection, analysis and reporting to improve decision-making and facilitate more agile and effective responses to future epidemics.
She extended appreciation to the Japanese government for its immense support, partnership and funding towards the execution of the project, stating, “The construction of the project was proof of the UNDP’s commitment to work with partners to improve access to health for the most vulnerable in the society.”
The District Director of the GHS, Alhassan Lawal, noted that when COVID-19 struck, the district was very stressed in terms of adequately responding to the disease and added that the new facility would go a long way to enable the district to resist and respond timely to the outbreak of diseases.
He added that “hitherto, we had to send samples of suspected diseases to the Navrongo Health Research Centre (NHRC) for testing but henceforth the challenge would be a thing of the past with the provision of the GeneXpert machine.”
The District Chief Executive (DCE), Gerard Ataogye, thanked the UNDP and the government of Japan for the provision of the facility and stressed that the area was well-positioned to deal with some diseases.
He gave an assurance that the district assembly would ensure that the facility was not under-utilised and abused, to achieve the intended purposes.
Source: Gilbert Mawuli Agbey | Graphic Online