Cholera is a severe diarrheal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is transmitted through contaminated water and food, and its outbreaks can spread rapidly and affect large numbers of people.
Cholera is a major public health issue in many African countries, including Ghana. In Ghana, cholera outbreaks occur frequently, with the last major outbreak in 2014 affecting over 28,000 people and resulting in 240 deaths. The Ghanaian government has taken significant steps to control cholera outbreaks in the country, but more needs to be done to eliminate the disease.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ghana reported 5,722 cases of cholera and 29 deaths in 2019 alone. This is a significant increase compared to the 2,828 cases and 12 deaths reported in the previous year. Cholera is a preventable disease, and Ghana can do more to stop it from spreading.
One of the critical factors contributing to cholera outbreaks in Ghana is poor sanitation and hygiene. Many communities lack access to proper sanitation facilities, including toilets and handwashing stations.
This leads to open defecation, which contaminates the environment and spreads the disease.
Another critical factor in the spread of cholera is the lack of access to clean water. Most Ghanaian households rely on untreated surface water sources, such as rivers and dams, for their domestic needs. This water is often contaminated with cholera-causing bacteria and other pathogens.
The government should prioritize the provision of clean water to communities to prevent the spread of cholera. This could be achieved through the construction of boreholes and piped water systems.
Improving hygiene practices is also essential in preventing cholera outbreaks. People should be educated on the importance of handwashing with soap and water, especially before handling food and after using the toilet. They should also be encouraged to boil their drinking water before consumption and ensure that their food is well-cooked to kill any bacteria that may cause cholera.
The use of vaccines is also an essential tool in preventing cholera. The WHO recommends vaccination in high-risk areas as a short-term measure to prevent outbreaks.
Ghana should strengthen its vaccination program to ensure that the most vulnerable populations, such as children and those in high-risk areas, are protected. The government should also collaborate with international organizations, such as UNICEF and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), to access affordable vaccines.
The government has made efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene in the country through programs like the Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) program, but more needs to be done to ensure that every Ghanaian has access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
Another cause of cholera in Ghana is a lack of awareness about the disease. Many Ghanaians do not know how cholera is transmitted or the importance of maintaining good hygiene to prevent its spread. The government and other stakeholders need to intensify efforts to educate Ghanaians about cholera. This can be done through public health campaigns, community outreach programs, and school-based education programs. Additionally, health workers should receive training on how to recognize and treat cholera cases to prevent the spread of the disease.
Effective surveillance and response systems are critical to ending cholera in Ghana. The Ghanaian government has made progress in establishing cholera surveillance systems and has introduced a cholera vaccine in high-risk areas.
However, there is a need to strengthen the capacity of healthcare providers at all levels to diagnose and treat cholera cases. Furthermore, there should be a focus on identifying and addressing the underlying causes of cholera outbreaks, such as poor urban planning and inadequate water and sanitation systems.
The Ghanaian government should invest more in sanitation infrastructure, including the construction of toilets and the provision of handwashing facilities, especially in rural areas. Proper sanitation practices can significantly reduce the risk of cholera outbreaks.
Concerted effort is required to end cholera in Ghana. This means that all sectors of society, including the government, non-governmental organizations, healthcare providers, and the general public, need to work together to tackle the root causes of cholera.
Ending cholera in Ghana requires sustained effort and resources. The government, in collaboration with development partners and stakeholders, should commit to investing in long-term solutions to prevent and control cholera. This includes improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities, strengthening health systems, and investing in education and awareness programs. Donor countries and organizations should also prioritize funding for cholera prevention and control initiatives in Ghana.
In conclusion, cholera remains a significant public health issue in Ghana, and concerted effort is required to eliminate the disease
The government should invest more in sanitation infrastructure, the provision of clean water, and hygiene education to prevent the spread of the disease. Vaccination programs should also be strengthened to protect vulnerable populations.
Ending cholera in Ghana will require a multi-sectoral approach involving all stakeholders, including the government, international organizations, NGOs, and the private sector. If Ghana takes these steps, it can eliminate cholera and ensure that its citizens live healthy and productive lives.
This report was made possible with technical support from the Centre for Science and Health Communication (CSHC) and funding from the National Research Foundation, South Africa.
By Joseph Kobla Wemakor
The writer is a staunch human rights /health advocate, National SDGs Champion and Founder/Executive Director of Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG)