General News of Thursday, 2 July 2009
A GNA feature by Sepenyo Dzokoto
Ho, July 2 GNA - It is so near but so very far. The Kalakpa Resource Reserve, largely within the Ho Municipal Area, is supposed to be excluded to human settlement but yet it is populated by hordes of people.
That is where the Volta Region Division of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) decided to pitch camp on May 22 for medical screening of residents.
The cluster of communities living in and on the periphery of the forest, include Dzroawode, Agortive, Forsime, Wukpo, Avetakpo and Folikope.
Under the banner of "Operation Forgotten Territories," the GMA resolved during its 50th anniversary last year to venture into a hard-to-reach area every year to give free service. The first such programme was at Bomigo Island in the Keta Lagoon, where Junior High School students go to school in chartered canoes. The team this year was made up of seven doctors, 15 nurses and seven paramedics. The number of people screened was around 600. With the medics were a few journalists, none of whom had ventured there before and so were overwhelmed by the range of problems in the area. The smoothest way of getting there is either by a tractor or a motorbike. Leading the fleet were two motorbikes, followed by a chartered Massey Fergusson tractor, with a wooden trailer. Whining in tow were two four-wheel drive pickups. In the trailers of the tractor and the pickups were medical supplies and equipment, water, soft drinks and majority of the men and women on the trip.
Everyone in there took some lashing from the protruding branches of trees at the sides or hanging above as the vehicles tore through the forest tracks marked only by the tyres of tractors. The plan was for the communities to converge at any of the two reception centres nearest them, Avetakpo or Dzroawode. Dr Gafatsi Kofi Normanyo, GMA Volta Division Chairman, Dr Winfred Ofosu, Treasurer, Dr John Eleeza, Ho District Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Timothy Letsa, Dr Moses Boni, Dr Kofi Oghenovo and Dr P.K.M. Kukah set up consultation tables for the aged, children, women and general.
There were also special tables for mother and child care. Many pregnant women had not availed themselves of the free health care at antennal clinics, and not even when they delivered did they visit child care clinics, because of distance. Dr Normanyo, who had parried all attempts to nudge him into commenting on the industrial action by doctors countrywide to work to rule, which coincided with the time of the exercise, would rather talk about the seriousness of the situation there. Malaria, skin infections, distended bellies of kids from malnutrition, worm infestation and a few hypertension cases were the main diseases in the area. All adults who visited the consultation tables had tetanus jabs as security against injuries from their hard farm jobs and charcoal production, which was visibly denuding the forest. The journey back was more strenuous. The hired tractor broke down and could not make it back. Another was brought but it also burst a front tyre less than a kilometer into the journey. So members of the team were virtually packed into the pick-ups for the return journey. God saved the team from disaster when one member partially fell off the trailer of the pickup he was hanging on, one leg in, and one out, bouncing after the vehicle.
God forbid, he would have been split in between the thighs. There were other anxious moments when tsetse flies dived into the pickups to bite exposed calves.
Dr Normanyo's cry in a chat with journalists on the trip was for the place to be opened up to bring inhabitants nearer to healthcare so that people there would not put women-in-labour in home made hammocks for hours in search of help. He said a woman in labour died there recently while being carried on a home made stretcher across one of the many brooks in the forest. That brook was flooded and the carriers were neck deep when the woman breathed her last.
"All these combined forces undermine their humanity and the country's progress," Dr Normanyo stated. An immediate move by government to build access roads to the forgotten territory was a doctor's prescription. But the Game and Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission disagrees. It says help could only get to them if they parked out of the place reserved for animals and not humans. Mr George Asamoah, Park Manager of the Kalakpa Resource Reserve, told the Ghana News Agency that the place had been a protected area since 1975 when it was acquired by government. But in the meantime, whilst they live there, they must be helped and a way must be found to get healthcare to them regularly. For now the clusters in the Kalakpa Resource Reserve remain in the annals of the Volta Division of the GMA as a "Forgotten Territory" that must be helped.