Ghana’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the identification of the virus in the country in March 2020 began with the closure of all clubs, bars, universities, and schools, and with the suspension of all conferences, rallies, workshops, sporting and religious events and funerals, and included enhanced hygiene measures in hotels, shopping malls, supermarkets and restaurants.
These measures were followed shortly by mandatory quarantine for anyone travelling into the country and the closure of Ghana’s borders, with subsequent lockdown measures put in place in the three largest cities.
In addition to these measures, the Government of Ghana recognised the difficulty of enforcing both the lockdown and social distancing measures, given the living and working conditions of many Ghanaians; and issued directives on how to manage the spread of the disease within the country. These have mainly taken the form of disinfecting public spaces such as markets, and public information campaigns to educate Ghanaians on appropriate hygiene measures to stop the spread of the disease.
The Community Water and Sanitation Agency, (CWSA) the department under the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources who Aqua Africa have been working in partnership with, were given the responsibility for the Emergency Handwashing Campaign, and were tasked with forming a strategy for this. The Chief Executive of CWSA issued a directive to all regional directors and convened an emergency meeting on the COVID-19 pandemic to deliberate on how staff and stakeholders could be protected from the virus. An emergency response process was initiated to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, which included promoting handwashing with soap and procuring handwashing equipment, and Aqua Africa was asked to support the logistics around this campaign.
Good hygiene practices, such as hand-washing, are key to preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, this is only possible when water and soap are accessible. Through our networks in Ghana, Aqua Africa has procured and donated 500 ‘Veronica Buckets’, which are large, lidded water tubs fitted with taps that allow handwashing where there is no running water, which have been distributed by CWSA to regional offices.
In addition to the Veronica Buckets, Aqua Africa has donated approximately 15,000 bars of Carbolic soap and 2,000 bars of multipurpose Key Bar soap to CWSA for distribution to the regions; working with the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources for the Sanitation division’s hygiene efforts for distribution across the Republic.
Ghana has so far reported 1,154 cases of COVID-19 in the country, although it is suspected that the number of unreported cases far exceeds this. The government is implementing routine surveillance and enhanced contact tracing, and is providing water free of charge to all citizens.
The borders remain closed but the government has relaxed lockdown measures, which heightens the importance of the hygiene campaign. Aqua Africa continues to provide support to the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources as the country deals with the virus and its spread.