Ghana is located at the coast of West Africa and bordering Ivory Coast, Togo and Burkina Faso. The “gold coast” of West Africa houses a flora and fauna with three main kinds of landscape: the coastal zone in the south, the strongly deforested tropical rain forest (tertiary rainforest) in the southwest and the savannah in the north. The country is under the influence of the nearby equator; as a result there is an extreme hot dry season and a warm, wet rainy season. The southern part of the country has two rainy seasons per year, the northern part one.
The backbone of the economy is agriculture where more than half of all employees work. Cacao is the main export product. Thus, the economy strongly depends on the world market price and influences the income of the majority of the workforce.
Ghana is a democratic republic with an elected president; the political situation is solid compared to many other African countries. This tropical country is home to different ethnic groups who speak about 70 dialects. The main languages are English and Twi. Ghana boasts a youthful demographic, about half of the Ghanaians are younger than 16 years.
The project region: Boamadumasi
The “Huttel Health and Development Centre” is situated in Boamadumasi in the southern part of the country, about 170 km north of the coast and 750 km north of the equator. Five villages and several small settlements surround Boamadumasi. The next small town is 25 kilometers away, the country's second biggest city, Kumasi, is located about 55 kilometers away. The people of the region belong to the group of the Akan (Ashanti, Fanti and Brong), which make up for 45% of the population. The Akan-group’s language is Twi. Few people in rural Ghana speak the official language English. Besides the official governmental system, a traditional system of power exists, which includes a king and a council of elders on village and district level.
About 1.000 inhabitants live in Boamadumasi. The surrounding communities and remote settlements are home to another 5.000 people. From Boamadumasi, most of the other villages can be reached by foot, some only after many hours of walking through the bush (left-overs of the rain forest which once existed, consisting of high grass, bushes and partly tropical forest).
People live in extreme poverty. They mainly live on subsistence agriculture and farm plantain, cassava, tomatoes and cacao. Small surpluses are sold on local markets at fluctuating prices to generate income for necessary purchases.As a result of the low income most people cannot afford the health care services in the nearest district hospital. Apart from the relatively costly (and still insufficient) health care services, patients also have to pay high public transport prices.
The standard of local schools is below the
average. Schools are lacking teachers and material. Most of the kids do not
attend school for long, as they often have to work at home. In teenage years,
many of them leave for the cities to look for a better life. Furthermore, basic
infrastructure for drinking water and waste water disposal is lacking.
The health project
Foundation Human Nature (FHN) supports the rural “Huttel Health and Development Centre” in the Ashanti region in South-Western Ghana. The project was started in 1989 by the German lady Hannelore Huttel (nobility?). In the beginning of 2003, the project was handed over to FHN.
Malaria, tuberculosis and typhoid fever are the most common and threatening diseases in the region around Boamadumasi. Skin diseases, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections and diarrhoea are common as well. Another problem are tropical ulcers like Buruli Ulcer, which often occur among school aged children. Early diagnosis is vital to prevent long-term irreversible damage. Toddlers often suffer from diarrhoea and respiratory infections, measles, malnutrition and malaria. Most locals are not vaccinated and lack knowledge about sanitation and family planning.
In the Huttel Health and Development Centre, a medical assistant (a specially trained nurse), a midwife, a laboratory assistant as well as three assistant nurses provide the local population with primary health care services.
Every week, there are 40 to 50 patients who visit the health centre. In collaboration with the regional health authority, monthly vaccination campaigns are organized. The implementation of the project is the local population’s responsibility. Community health workers (consisting of volunteers from surrounding villages) meet weekly to discuss issues related to the villages, the health centre and potential solutions. These meetings also serve for capacity building in different health-related topics.
In collaboration with the health centre staff and voluntary doctors from Europe and the USA, the community health workers organize health education and vaccination campaigns. They organize information events and workshops in the surrounding villages on topics like malaria, hygiene and family planning. Through a combination of treatment, disease prevention and health promotion, diseases are not only treated but prevented.
The project coordination lies in the hands of the local project coordinator from FHN Ghana who is responsible for administrative tasks, coordination and supervision. The project is supervised by Dr. Edward Gold of FHN England.
In2004, a well was built to provide the health centre and the bordering village with drinking water. Contacts to local schools exist to improve education in the region. Since March 2006, a photovoltaic solar power plant provides the health centre’s electricity, e.g. the refrigerator that stores vaccines and immune serums.