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Ghana confers National award to Indian doctor Uma Sen

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Accra (Ghana): Indian doctor Uma Sen, who spent her entire career working in Ghana, was on Friday conferred its prestigious award – Member of the Order of the Volta (MV) – by President John Mahama in recognition of her “patriotic and humanitarian services to the people of this country in the field of health care”.

The citation read: “At the regional hospital, you devoted your full time to duty and brought smiles to many women who hitherto, suffered from infertility and could not have babies of their own. You saved many lives at the Regional Hospital, Ho. Ut is on record that you always responded positively to night and weekend calls even when you were not on duty.”

In spite of the fact that she had dedicated her whole life serving Ghanaians, she was not able to get a resident permit until IANS took up her case two years ago when she was in retirement. Ghana Health Service’s regional director, Joseph Teye Nuertey, had then told IANS that “this woman deserve to be properly honoured by the country”.

Sen’s story is a remarkable one. Originally from India’s eastern West Bengal state, she arrived in Ghana in 1969 and has been in the west African country since then, spending her entire working life working at various hospitals before ending up at the Volta Regional Hospital at Ho.

Popularly called “Mama” or grandmother, Dr Sen who is now 82, worked as a specialist gynaecologist but because she could not put up a house of her own, she ended up being looked after by the staff of the hospital because she did not marry.

Recruited by the health ministry in 1969, she worked at the Ashanti-Mampong Mission Maternity Hospital in the Ashanti Region till 1970, at the Upper East Regional Hospital in Bolgatanga from 1970 to 1972 and then from 1973 at the Volta Regional Hospital, where she retired in 1999.

“She was re-engaged on contract by the Volta Regional Hospital and paid from the hospital’s internally generated fund. Throughout her working life, in the ministry of health, she exhibited a high level of professional competencies in medicine to the administration of both her colleagues and clients,” a letter on file at the Regional Health Directorate said.

Neurtey said Sen trained many doctors in obstetrics and gynaecology, some of whom are professors in the various fields of medicine in the country.

In addition, “Dr Uma Sen never married, she spent her life working in Ghana and has rendered meritorious services to the people of Ghana. It is our opinion that Dr Uma Sen should be honoured by the ministry of health and Ghana Health Service to serve as a motivation of foreign nationals working in the country.

“Dr Uma Sen has no intention of going back to her country of birth, and should, therefore, be appropriately settled in the country, preferably in the Volta Region where she has many friends,” the letter said.

After her medical studies at the University of Calcutta in 1953, she worked at the Tata Main Hospital at Jamshedpur from 1953 to 1962 and then went to London to work at various hospitals including Middlesborough General Hospital in Yorkshire and later at the Southend General Hospital.

It was after that she took the decision to come to Ghana. “Through my friend, Smority Biswas, who had visited Ghana before knew a bit of the country, I expressed the interest and she worked out my employment for me and I came to Ghana,” said Sen.

She was well prepared for the trip because she arrived in Ghana in a ship with a car that she had bought. “I drove myself from the Takoradi Harbour to Ashanti-Mampong by myself and just fell in love with the people instantly because they treated me as one of their own.”

Sen said that since arriving in Ghana, she got busy with work and forget about enjoying her life. “I just worked and worked, sometimes, I even forget to have my meals, but I do not regret coming because it has been a great experience for me.”(IANS)

(Francis Kokutse)

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Innovation and Startup Culture Thriving in Ghana

Ghana is seeing a spurt in Innovation & Technology

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A worker using his innovation inside Nelson Boateng's Nelplast Factory
Inside Nelson Boateng's Nelplast Factory in the outskirts of Accra, Ghana, a worker creates bricks from recycled plastic and sand. VOA

ACCRA – Ghana is regarded as a West African hub of invention, with growing numbers of young people looking at local solutions to local problems.  In December, Ghana is hosting two conferences on innovation and technology.

Alhassan Baba Muniru, co-founder of the Recycle Up company, wants to clean up the natural environment in Ghana.

But he also wants to educate, empower and support young people to pursue conservation – and to make money while doing it.

At the December Innovation Africa summit in Accra, he plans to advocate for more support for young inventors, especially those looking to do green business.

“Even while we are in school we are already entrepreneurial so, for me, I can be able to do a formal job but the freedom of being able to bring my own ideas into action and really take charge of doing something practical and something which also makes society better – it’s much more fulfilling,” said Muniru.

Alhassan Baba Muniro talking about Innovation
Alhassan Baba Muniro wants to clean up and create jobs for young people. VOA

Part of Recycle Up’s work includes collecting plastic from schools to sell to people like Nelson Boateng, whose company mixes it with sand to create bricks.

Muniru and Boateng walk through the factory in the outskirts of Accra, where plastic from across the city is shredded, melted, mixed and then molded into bricks to be used for roads, pavements and buildings.

Boateng, who also manufactures plastic bags, said the bricks are his way of helping to clean up the environment and to provide jobs.

But while Ghana is seeing a spurt in innovation, he said the country needs a lot more infrastructure to support environmentally-friendly business.

“For innovations in Ghana, it’s very, very difficult if you don’t really have the heart.  You will lose hope because honestly speaking when I was doing my polybag that is polluting the environment, I was having a lot of money.  I have money, there wasn’t any problem. When I started this, when you go to the bank they don’t know this, they want something that the money will be flowing, not something you people don’t know –  and not something you say you are trying to save the environment, nobody will mind you on that,” he said.

Supporting local technology startups is expected to be discussed at another December conference in Accra – the second annual Ghana Tech Summit.

ALSO READ: India: Innovation Holds the Key to Job Crisis.

Ghanaian inventor Andrew Quao is working to ease the burden on hospitals with technology that allows pharmacies to diagnosis and monitor chronic and tropical diseases.

Andrew Quao, Co-founder of 'Red Birds' helps in innovation and startup.
Andrew Quao, Co-founder of healthcare tech startup ‘Red Birds’ works with pharmacies across Ghana. VOA

He said African healthcare sectors like Ghana’s are ripe for innovative solutions.

“I think it is growing in the right direction, I think the climate is good, you have got a good mix of local talent and experience and expats coming in and seeing Ghana as a good point to start, so that also works.  We have the ‘brain gain.’ The diasporans – people like myself who schooled in the U.S. – coming back and trying to bring innovations in country,” said Quao.

While both public and private sectors are backing innovation, entrepreneurs hope to see a swell of support from the Innovation Africa and Ghana Tech summits. (VOA)

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Uncontrolled Illegal Activities Threaten Ghana’s Fishing Sector

In Ghana, about 2 million people rely on these fish for their food and income

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Fishermen in the Nungua area of Accra wait for canoes to come in with their catches. (S. Knott for VOA) .VOA

On a beach in Ghana’s capital, Accra, fishermen from the Nungua community are waiting for the vibrantly painted canoes to return from sea with their catch of small fish to be sold at the local market.

In Ghana, about 2 million people rely on these fish for their food and income.  But trawlers, run almost exclusively by Chinese operators using Ghanaian front companies, are illegally targeting this staple catch and selling it back to local communities at a profit in a practice called saiko, according to a report from local NGO Hen Mpoano and the Environmental Justice Foundation.

Kofi Agbogah, director of the NGO, says saiko used to just be a regular practice where fishermen would meet trawlers at sea and exchange the trawler’s catch for goods they were carrying.

“Today it has become a multimillion-dollar business where trawlers are harvesting fish that they are not licensed to harvest and sell it back to some canoes — I will call those canoe business people,” he said. “They are not traditional fishers. They just go out there without nets, they buy the fish from the trawlers, and come and sell it in some designated ports.”

Illegal, Ghana, Fishing
On a beach in Ghana’s capital, Accra, fishermen from the Nungua community are waiting. Pixabay

Destroying livelihoods

The report found that in 2017, industrial trawlers caught almost the same amount of fish as the local fishing sector when illegal and unreported catches were taken into account. It also found the practice of saiko also destroyed the livelihoods of local fishermen.

Fisherman Frederick Bortey wants the government to banish those behind illegal fishing.

“My children are not getting money to go to school,” he lamented. “So it is very painful that we are talking about it. They can try and sack those people for us. We would like that, so we can fish, too, in our own country.”

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Bortey and his colleagues say they also face fellow fishermen undertaking illegal practices using fishing lights, where a light is beamed into the water to attract fish.

Ghana’s government says it is focused on tackling such issues. But if nothing happens soon, Agbogah warns that ordinary people will suffer.

“What happens if the fishermen don’t fish anymore?” He said their homes will become “coastal ghost towns” as young people “begin to move across the desert in an attempt to go to Europe.” (VOA)

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Ghana Preparing for it’s First Digital Population, Housing Census

The census is expected to cost $84 million, around 50% more than the last census

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Ghana, Digital Population, Census
A government official tests an electronic questionnaire in Old Fadama, Accra’s largest slum, ahead of Ghana’s first digital population and housing census in 2020, May 24, 2019. VOA

In Accra’s district of Old Fadama, the largest slum in Ghana’s capital, a government official interrupts a group of men playing cards. The official carries a tablet and asks if anyone has time for a few questions to test an electronic questionnaire.

Ghana is preparing for its first digital population and housing census next March, joining Swaziland, Malawi and Kenya as one of the first countries in Africa to collect data electronically.

Long-time resident Mohammed Basiru volunteers. He was missed out of the head count during Ghana’s previous census in 2010 because he was traveling overnight from the northern city of Tamale.

At that time, questionnaires were on paper. It took months to gather and assemble the data, and around 3% of the population was left out of the survey.

Ghana, Digital Population, Census
Satellite imagery shows the growth of Accra’s urban area between 2010 (above) and 2018 (below). The government is using satellite technology to prepare for its first digital population and housing census in 2020. VOA

Now the government will be going digital, using tablets and satellite images to improve the reach of enumerators and make sure everyone in Ghana is counted on census night.

Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia said the data would help fight inequality.

“We must count everyone and make everyone accountable to pay their fair share in taxes that would be used to target assistance to those who may not have had access to critical social services previously,” said Bawumia at an event last week.

The census is expected to cost $84 million, around 50% more than the last census. The government has contracted around 60,000 enumerators, but is still working with the United Nations on how best to source the 65,000 tablets required to conduct the surveys.

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Officials say Kenya may be able to lend out the tablets after it completes its first digital census later this year.

Araba Forson, chief statistician for the Ghana Statistical Service, said technology would prevent enumerators from under-staffing densely populated areas — a problem encountered in 2010 because the population maps they used were out of date.

“Satellite imagery will tell us that there are people living in this part of the country that the enumerator may not have visited,” she said. “Using electronic data collection, we will be able to make sure that everyone has been covered.”

Ghana’s urban population has more than doubled during the past two decades, rising from 7 million in 1997 to almost 16 million in 2017, according to the World Bank.

Ghana, Digital Population, Census
Informal settlements in Accra’s Agbogbloshie slum, where residents were evicted by city authorities to make way for a railway track in Accra, Ghana, May 26, 2019. VOA

Many people have moved from poorer rural areas in search for work, joining the millions of street vendors and waste pickers who make up most of Ghana’s informal economy.

Together with the homeless, they are the “floating population” whom government statisticians want to capture better in their database.

And the stakes are higher this time, as the census will play a key part in the nationwide rollout of biometric ID cards launched by President Nana Akufo-Addo in 2017. The new Ghana Card requires a digital address code, many of which will be generated by enumerators during the census.

In Agbogbloshie district, notorious for housing a toxic junkyard of electronic waste, community member Naa Ardo-Acquah said some slum dwellers were suspicious of the ID registration process.

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“In the Choko community, they thought the card means to tax,” she said. “The authorities didn’t sensitize them on it.”

Ardo-Acqhua hopes the new digital address system will stop city authorities from removing slum dwellers from their homes.

But distrust remains an issue, and officials testing tablets and marking houses in poorer areas said some of their numbers were later removed by informal residents who feared eviction.

“Our publicity and communication team has developed communication materials, both print and audiovisuals, that will be used to educate the people,” said Omar Seidu, a social statistician for the Ghana Statistical Service.

Ghana, Digital Population, Census
A church in Agbogbloshie slum hosts a registration center for a biometric ID card launched by Ghana’s president in 2017. VOA

Seidu said his team would be working closely with community leaders before the census to make sure the process is understood.

Ardo-Acqhua has said she still worries the government will not send enough staff to Agbogbloshie. She spent days helping people register for their ID cards at centers set up by the National Identification Authority, and said many were discouraged by long lines.

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“They only came for three days and less than half the community was able to sign up,” she said. “I don’t know what they are going to do about that.” (VOA)