The Ghana Health Service (GHS) in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is extending health promotion, public outreach and awareness on coronavirus to vulnerable populations, including persons with disability and people living with HIV in hard-to reach communities.
The goal is to ensure that 500,000 vulnerable women and 250,000 vulnerable men with disabilities are equipped with relevant information on COVID-19, so as to empower them to make better decisions and change their behaviour to protect themselves and others. As part of this initiative, tailored communication materials in accessible formats including braille, audio, and sign language for people living with disabilities will be produced and disseminated.
Commenting on the initiative’s importance, the Director of Health Promotion at the Ghana Health Service and leader of the Risk Communication team for COVID-19, Dr. Aboagye Dacosta, emphasised the importance of reaching remote communities and vulnerable groups with credible information on COVID-19.
“This initiative is very timely and essential in bridging the communications gaps on COVID-19. Our efforts to enhance access to credible information for the targetted vulnerable population in remote areas will promote the right behavioural change to fight and contain the virus,” he stated.
Statistics show that, currently, risk communication on COVID-19 in Ghana has been concentrated in the three identified epicentres (Accra, Kumasi and Tema), which represent about 35% of the country’s population – leaving behind 65% of Ghanaians, especially those living in rural areas. Moreover, the primary language for communication is English, with few communication materials in 3 of the 9 government-sponsored languages. In addition, current efforts to reach the country’s over 3 million persons having disability with information in accessible formats are limited.
“The COVID-19 pandemic compounds pre-existing marginalisation, inequalities and vulnerabilities, particularly for women and men with disabilities and people living with HIV. This is why the UN is keen on these kinds of partnerships for working closely with governments to reach out to everyone with credible information and interventions, in order to ensure no one is left behind,” noted Gita Welch, acting Resident Representative of UNDP Ghana.
The sensitisation activities will be implemented at about 160 districts in all the 16 regions of Ghana. In each of the 16 regions, at least 10 districts with hard-to-reach areas and communities – including prisons, immigration detention centres, underserved and border communities – will be targetted, using various community engagement approaches and channels for public education.