Exploring the ripple-effects – Jubilee Oil Field and coastal community health


By Godson Kofi DAVIES

Inspired by a documentary I recently watched, Ghana’s Jubilee Oil Field – located 60 kilometres off the Western Region’s coast – plays a significant role in the country’s economy. According to Worldometer, Ghana is ranked 49th among 127 crude oil-producing countries, with an annual production of approximately 99 million barrels. However, the environmental and health impacts of industrial discharges from oil operations are a growing concern, particularly for nearby coastal communities.

Health and environmental concerns

The extraction and processing of oil generate various pollutants, including crude oil, produced water, drilling fluids and other chemicals. These substances can contaminate the marine environment and affect the health of local populations. Coastal communities depend heavily on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods, and pollution can significantly reduce fish stocks and degrade coral reefs, which in turn harms the local economy and food sources.

Health-wise, exposure to hydrocarbons and associated chemicals can lead to a variety of acute and chronic health problems. These include respiratory issues, skin diseases and more severe conditions such as cancer and reproductive health problems. The lack of robust healthcare infrastructure in Ghana’s coastal regions further exacerbates these health risks, as local health facilities are often ill-equipped to handle chronic illnesses or large-scale health emergencies.

In contrast, many oil-producing nations have implemented rigorous regulatory frameworks and technological innovations to mitigate environmental and health impacts. For example, recognised for its strict environmental standards, Norway employs cutting-edge technology to minimise flaring and re-inject produced water to avoid marine discharge. The country also invests heavily in community health programmes in its oil-producing areas. The UAE conducts regular environmental monitoring and has established stringent legal penalties for oil spill incidents.

Additionally, it channels a portion of its oil revenues into healthcare and social services to support affected communities. In Canada’s Alberta oil sands, there are extensive water quality monitoring and reclamation initiatives. Canada emphasises sustainable practices and rehabilitation of used lands, and local communities receive support through health and environmental funds.

Impact on local healthcare systems

The local healthcare systems in coastal communities near the Jubilee Oil Field may face significant challenges, primarily due to the environmental impact of nearby industrial activities. These communities struggle with inadequate medical facilities that are ill-equipped to handle the increasing prevalence of health issues that arise from prolonged exposure to pollutants associated with oil extraction and processing.

There is an urgent need for substantial improvements, including the construction of more hospitals, the provision of advanced medical equipment, and the increase in healthcare personnel trained to deal with specific industrial-related health conditions.

Additionally, there is a pressing need for the development of specialised programmes that can offer long-term care and support to those suffering from chronic illnesses induced by environmental contaminants. This holistic enhancement of healthcare infrastructure is crucial not only for treating existing health problems, but also for improving the overall resilience of these communities against potential future health crises.


To mitigate the environmental and health impacts of industrial activities at Ghana’s Jubilee Oil Field, it is essential to implement several key strategies. Stricter environmental regulations aligned with international best practices should be enforced, including regular monitoring of water and air quality. A portion of oil revenues should be allocated specifically for enhancing healthcare infrastructure in affected regions, which includes building new hospitals and training healthcare workers.

Additionally, community health programmes focusing on surveillance and preventive education need implementation to address the direct health impacts of oil pollution. Economic diversification should be promoted to lessen the local economy’s dependency on fishing and tourism, providing alternative livelihoods for communities.

Investing in pollution prevention technology is critical to reduce pollutant discharge and minimise environmental damage. Finally, ensuring that local communities are actively involved in decision-making processes and adequately compensated for any adverse impacts is crucial for sustainable development and community welfare.

Adopting these recommendations, our country can not only mitigate the adverse impacts of oil production on its coastal communities but also ensure that oil revenues contribute positively to the health and well-being of its citizens. Effective management and reinvestment of oil income into local communities will be crucial in fostering sustainable development and protecting the health of populations vulnerable to industrial discharges.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any organisation.

>>>I’ll be your wingman on your health journey! The writer is a public health professional with a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield, USA and works as a Medical Fraud Analyst at the Illinois Office of Inspector-General. He founded GD Consult in Ghana to promote healthy lifestyles and developed innovative projects, such as a Health Risk Assessment Model for hydraulic fracking operations. He can be reached via [email protected]

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