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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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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)