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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)