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A powerful experience in Ghana

By Stan Storey, Florida District

My recent trip to Ghana proved to be an enlightening experience. After I returned, a friend commented that it looked like all I brought back were a couple of t-shirts and souvenirs. Yet when I look at those items, I recall a powerful experience.

The primary purpose of this field visit was to evaluate the quality and sustainability of The Eliminate Project in Ghana. Ghana was certified free of maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2011. We found that the basic principles and objectives established for the elimination of this dreadful, yet preventable, disea
se were still in place and working very well.

The healthcare system in Ghana appears structured with healthcare facilities and services at various levels. We visited two regional hospitals in Tamale followed by stops at regional clinics, sub-regional clinics and community clinics. Most impressive was the dedication and commitment of healthcare workers at all levels.

The physical conditions at the facilities were less than desirable by our standards. The most pressing need: more space. Even with patients overflowing on beds in hallways, the staff remained committed to provide the best care possible.

In all of our visits we asked how long it had been since they had seen a case of maternal or neonatal tetanus. Several staff members answered "never” while others said between eight and 10 years. It is obvious the program is working.

Since education continues to be a primary factor in the sustainability of MNT elimination, we were most pleased to witness a session filled with expectant mothers. Another major factor is the success of expectant mothers giving birth at a healthcare facility. This has improved from less than 15 percent to around 30 percent. The most notable progress is the increasing use of educated midwives, who practice safe-birthing techniques that help prevent MNT.

Without a doubt, it was a memorable experience, one that I will always treasure. I want to express a great big “thank you” to all who have contributed to The Eliminate Project. I can assure you that my experience in Ghana indicates that your contributions are saving lives.

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