Although latest reports according to the World Health Organization (WHO) shows across the three most Ebola affected countries Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone cases of new infections are stagnating, there are no sure signs the disease is backing down. With over 8000 people dead and populations and economies of Africa nations under threat, it is obvious desperate measures are urgently needed to quell the current Ebola virus epidemic.


In Ghana, even though there has not been any confirmed case of the disease,the Ghanaian public has been highly advised on behavior change including the need to break common socio-cultural and religious norms that are known to be vehicles for the transmission of the disease. Thankfully the alarm messages from the country?s Ministry of Health and its partners seem to be catching up well with the people.

Already public awareness of the dangers and risk of the virus slipping into our territory is high. This seems to be fueling some fear as seen in recent public pressure which has forced the government to come out and dispel earlier rumor that the country intended to replace Morocco as next host of the this year?s Nations Cup finals currently underway in Equatorial Guinea. But even though the public seems to be fully aware of the danger in the corner, there are many issues that leave one to wonder if the same public is alert and ready to enact preventive actions.

Officialdom has since outlawed hand shake at public functions. Similarly some religious societies including churches whose ceremonial activities encompass bodily contacts have also responded with ban on hand shaking and hugging during worship services.

It will be recalled that local media sometime in 2014 carried a story on a directive by the Church of Pentecost in Ghana restraining all pastors in the church from laying hands on worshipers during faith healing and deliverance sessions. That publication attracted a mixed reaction from the public with some people applauding the church and other questioning their faith. It has been observed however, that the leadership of most churches and mosques has enforced similar principles though on the quite.

This positive swift action of the religious could be considered progressive and commendable considering that in the past similar issues of disease control and prevention mechanisms sparked controversies where some religious societies deliberately or so to speak made things difficulty for authorities on the basis of faith and superstition.

But whilst commending the religious in Ghana, it can be said for sure that the action of the Christians and Moslem leaders will have minimal impact if at all on the spread or otherwise of the Ebola virus should there be an outbreak of the disease(God forbid) in Ghana.

I say this because whilst in the churches and mosques hand shaking is no longer allowed people shake hands outside the church, at home, market and work places. For many months now during church services in my church, whenever it come to time for hand shaking the Minister of God religiously remembers and asks the congregation to greet one another with the ?Ebola greeting? and people usually respond with smiles and waving of hands. The discipline with which the church does this is amazing but what happens on the flip side almost immediately after the church service is absurd.As soon as the service closes people are seen cheerfully greeting, shaking hands and hugging as if to say ?forget about what the church says?. Some people plainly make jokes out of it. It makes one want to ask ?is it true Ghanaians live by the principle of ?seeing is believing??

And trust me it is not only in the church or worship centers. I recently witnessed at a funeral people file up and greet by shaking hands and I wondered if they have not heard about Ebola.Don?t ask me whether or not I stillshake hands these days.Ask yourself if you have stopped shaking hands since warnings of possible Ebola outbreak in the country emerged? You certainly feel guilty like me, but this is no joke and we must stop deceiving ourselves or prepare to die if Ebola rears his ugly face here.

The point is a handshake anywhere is a handshake everywhere. There isbody contact in most cases and if there is Ebola there will be transmission of the virus. This is simple and common sense.But is that the understanding of the Ghanaian?With suspicion deepening in the circles of scientific research that the current Ebola outbreak sweeping through West Africa likely began at a funeral in Sierra Leone (http://www.futurity.org/ebola-infectious-diseases-funeral-756582/), Ghana could be stepping on wet grounds considering that the public does not seem to see urgency in the need to adhere to the best preventive practices in the current educational messages.

The question onemay like to ask is ?so what could be done to make people take action and strictly adhere to such practices such as frequent hand washing with soap and running water, avoiding bodily contact including handshaking, huggingetc?? For me we need to step up the education. Let us flood every available modern, traditional media space with messages on how to avoid contracting Ebola. Our education must also be more tailor-made and well targeted. Various sections of society particularly groups who by occupation are at higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease must be well targeted. And I don?t mean getting on radio and singing, when you cannot be sure who and how many people are listening.
Stepping up the education campaign would certainly cost us a fortune considering our current ?precarious? economic situation but it is worth the trouble in fighting an Ebola outbreak.

In this regard, the Ghana Health Service in the Upper East Region deserves some commendation for their determination to take the education on Ebola to every nook and cranny of the region and to every high risk social group in the midst of dire resource constrains. Beyond persistentradio announcements and discussions, districts are feverishly holding community durbars where large numbers of people are given education on the disease. Community leadership, women and children are major targets for the education. The messages focus on behavior change and safepractices.

For instance the public is advised to modify the ways and manner certain social events such as parties,funeralsand burials services areperformed in order to reduce risk of disease spread.In the Bongo District, the District Director of Health Services Madam Juliana Akugre and her staff have been meeting and educating local funeral managers also known as undertakers. They are being educated to avoid handling corpses with their bare hands and to also stop the common cultural practice of keeping corpse for many days before burying. Instead they are advised to properly and quickly bury their dead relatives making sure the handlers cover their hands, feet and heads securely with multiple layers of trash bags. They are also taught to cultivate the habit of thoroughly washing handsand cloths with soap and water.

Health staff have not been left out of the education. At a recent two day disease surveillance and Ebola training for staff of the Regional Health Directorate, Deputy Director of HealthServices in charge of Public Health, Dr. Joseph Opare Kojo Larbi said in order for any country to be able to fight off the Ebola disease in case of an break it must ensure its health workers are protected to maintain a strong health system. He recommended that all health workers take up the task of educating the population about the disease.
Meanwhile from May 2014 to date a total of 11 suspected cases of Ebola havebeen recorded in the region and all samples sent for testing proved negative.

Source: mathias aboba


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