The Health of Ghana

The Health of Ghana"
 

Every clinic day began with meeting the chief of the village. One chief in particular was extra welcoming. We were met by a large sign printed that was detailed with each of our names. He presented each of us individually with special scarves made by a local woman. He called Yamfo our "second home" and gave us his "key to every corner of the village". He went out of his way to show us his gratitude for Project CURE's efforts and Newmont's generosity in donating funds and supplies for their clinic and health education institute.

Dokyikrom is off the map. The path to this third village was more of a man-made red dirt clearing through the folliage just large enough for our bus than it ever could be considered a "road". This was the epitome of poverty. I cannot discern which structures have been abandoned and which ten person families still call home. Through all openings I only saw dirt floors. Occasionally, a mish-mash of stucco covered up the dirt and tree branch that made the walls of these residences. There is no commerce in this ghost-town as we had seen in huts and tin shacks with hand-made retail signs in the previous villages. The only professions seemed to be farmer and teacher. There is one elementary school and a beautifully maintained mosque. This clinic was set up between two homes under the only tree large enough to provide shade in the football-field sized town. At a single coal burning table, a mother cooked food while her youngest baby sat in a pot of bath water next to her. Across the path, another woman and her children pumped water from the well that was the villages only water source. There is a public outhouse adjacent from the Mosque. It has two rooms with three walls each, an opening for a doorway, and no ceiling or floor. 

The best part about clinic that day was the fact that the night before our antibiotics had arrived. It was almost as if the post new we would need them in this village. Each child was able to receive Albendazole for worms. The second best part was that people actually came for "wellness" checkups! We saw more of the same generalized, non-specific ailments: weakness, abdominal and waist pain, fever, and itchiness. It was difficult to discern if these people are more affected by their malnutrition, chronic malaria, dehydration, or parasites. Some of the children looked as though their sickness wouldn't allow them time to see the next Project CURE trip to the region. 
 
More than one person complained to me of generalized itchiness after bathing. They had been educated enough to know they must boil water before drinking or cooking with it, but did not bathe in clean water. Almost every health issue in this village comes down to lack of sanitary water supply and proper education. It is such a shame that something so easily preventable, causes such widespread mortality. Despite the conditions, a veteran volunteer on the trip said that in the 15 years and in all of the African countries she has served, Ghana is by far the most progressive in health care overall, especially noting the eagerness of the people in wanting to be trained and the impressive knowledge and diligence that the medical workers there already have. In 1900, the US mortality rate was 95% higher than it was 100 years later. I wonder how long it would take Ghana to decreased their mortality rate by 95%.
On trips like these, I am always impressed with how the locals can do so much with so little. Nevertheless, I always wish that I could do more for the patients, knowing that there is treatment and preventative care but that it is not always available. I started this trip knowing that there would be growth opportunities that that would build on my knowledge and skill. The women on this trip specifically have taught me that a lifetime of travel and giving is possible. The volunteer doctor taught me how to focus care on how I can best serve the patient in front of me, because sometimes you can only choose one thing to fix. They have all inspired me so much in many different ways, and I will forever be grateful for this opportunity.