Ghana’s Response to Covid-19
Prof. Abena Oduro, Vice Dean, Faculty of Social Science, University of Ghana. Despite the shrinking fiscal space – revenue has fallen - a GHS 1.2 billion ($200 million) corona virus alleviation programme has been approved by Parliament to provide support to households and businesses. Households have benefitted from a 100% water subsidy for three months until June 2020 and a 50% electricity subsidy to households, except very poor customers who will receive a 100% subsidy for three months until June. An incentive package (tax waivers) has been provided to health workers and in addition, frontline health workers will receive allowances. Given the global shortage of PPEs, local production has been encouraged by government. The private sector has risen to the occasion and locally produced masks made using African prints are being manufactured by small household enterprises. A producer of alcoholic drinks has turned to producing hand sanitizers.
Government has set up the COVID-19 National Trust Fund to receive funds from individuals and institutions to supplement state resources. So far the Trust Fund has received the equivalent of $7.2 million. Donations have come from all and sundry including the Association of Spare Parts Dealers, the Customs House Agents and Old Girls’ associations of the schools I attended.
Large private sector actors are also doing their bit and have come together to establish the Ghana COVID-19 Fund. Its objective as stated on its website is to ‘partly fund GOG’s interventions and equip selected health service and supply chain facilities and activities in the fight against COVID-19’.The Fund is financing the construction of a 100-bed isolation and treatment facility.
It is managed by a Board of Trustees who comprise the first 10 people to contribute to the Fund. They are CEOs of local companies. The names of donors are published on the web page.
At the community level the not so poor provided food packages to the perceived vulnerable. It was not always pure altruism, which is not unexpected. A young friend of mine told me that in her community, each well-to-do household adopted two less fortunate households and supplied them with food packages during the lockdown to make sure that they would stay at home as required by the lockdown and not turn to crime (rob the homes of the rich) out of desperation. It was a win-win situation, which cannot be said for all cases of aid-giving.
The number of confirmed cases is rising and the number of cases in Ghana may be higher than in many African countries because of government’s policy of trace, test and treat. We are yet to see how the assistance programme to small and medium scale enterprises will be implemented. The eligibility criteria could worsen already existing inequalities. A pressing problem is stigmatisation of people who have recovered from the virus. Lots more information on the virus has to be made available so that people understand how the virus spreads and what it means to have recovered from the virus.
There is a lot that Ghana can learn from other countries and there is a lot that it is learning from its own experiences as it plods along.