The Navrongo-Bolgatanga Catholic Diocesan Development Organisation (NABOCADO), a faith-based organisation, has launched a project to complement government’s efforts to fight COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among Ghanaians.
Dubbed, “COVID-19 Emergency Response Project” (CERP), it is aimed at working with various stakeholders and community structures through a behaviour change communication approach within the Diocese to demystify misconception and misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines, to promote acceptance and increase uptake.
It would be implemented by the Catholic Health Services of NABOCADO and would benefit 63 communities in the 21 Municipalities and Districts within the Diocese which comprised the Upper East and North East Regions.
The one-year project worth GH₵3.2 million is being facilitated by the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) with funding support from the Osprey Foundation.
As part of the implementation of the project, a pick- up truck and six motorbikes were also given to the implementation team to assist in their work and help reach hard-to-reach communities.
Speaking at the launch of the project in Bolgatanga, Dr Joseph Ayembilla, the Human Development Coordinator, NABOCADO, noted that the project would be implemented in collaboration with various stakeholders including the Food and Drugs Authority and Ghana Health Service.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic was still in existence and with the influx of foreign nationals such as the Burkinabes into the country, the two regions which were bordering neighbouring countries were exposed and stood the chance of being infected with the virus.
He said it was therefore imperative to change negative attitudes and behaviour among residents towards the vaccines and the project would help build the capacities of health staff and community volunteers to help overcome vaccine hesitancy.
“We are not going to buy any vaccine because the Ghana Health Service is going to provide the vaccines as part of the collaboration we have with them, and the project will reach about 712,000 people based on our initial baseline research,” he said.
Mr Daniel Mumuni, the CRS Country Representative to Ghana, said globally about six million people had died since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and about 32,000 had died between the first week of February, 2023 and the first week of March 2023.
Mr Mumuni explained that rural and deprived communities had limited or no access to the COVID-19 vaccines and noted that it was important for stakeholders to work at strengthening the healthcare systems of the country, to make access to health services easy and prepare the country for future pandemics.
Dr Josephat Nyuzaghl, the Upper East Deputy Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service in charge of Public Health, said although the Upper East and North East Regions were doing well in the vaccination campaign, recording 82 per cent and 86 per cent vaccination respectively, the regions would only be safe if they attained 100 per cent head immunity.
He said the project came at the right time where misinformation and conspiracy theories had characterized the vaccines, creating fear in people, and preventing them from getting vaccinated and noted that the community level and household level engagements would help correct the negative notion
Mr Stephen Yakubu, the Upper East Regional Minister, lauded the efforts of the Catholic Church for its immense contribution over the years to improving various sectors of the economy including socioeconomic empowerment, education, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and health.
He said the COVID-19 had destabilized many economies including Ghana and urged all the stakeholders to support the project to succeed.