03 Jun Plantains and Public Health: West Africa goes off the grid!
Posted at 11:46h in West AfricaLess than two weeks ago, ten strangers met to embark on an adventure that all started with a water sachet chugging competition. We began our journey in the capital city of Accra in Ghana to learn the trials and triumphs associated with public health in a developing country. Since moving away from the Capital city, we’ve started to travel around the area heading up towards Northern Ghana. Along our way, we’ve learned how to barter in a busy Ghanaian market, navigate our way to public transportation, try cultural dishes and participate in group discussions that have brought our group and understanding of public health closer together. We kick-started our trip with an orientation in Cape Coast where we were able to experience the beauty of Ghana’s coastal beaches and gain a new respect for African history and take a tour of the Cape Coast castle which explained the details of the African slave trade. After dining with some locals for a traditional Ghanaian meal, we learned the real way to eat good food – with your hands! It was a great night of heartiness and hospitality. With full stomachs and eager feet, we began our journey of understanding public health in Wil Toge. After hiking up a mountain for three hours, we reached a tiny village where we stayed as part of an eco-tourism initiative and learnt about the medical facilities available to the rural populations. What we discovered were the limitations many of the local villagers face in having access to health facilities. The clinic that is currently in the process of being built requires extensive amounts of time, money and dedication. As a result of the delay in accomplishing the clinic, pregnant woman must attempt the dangerous hike down for the mountain in order to reach a hospital and give birth. The result of participating in this risk often accounts for high infant mortality rates because there is not consistent and reliable access to health facilities closer by. We were all in agreement that this risk was not acceptable and provided an eye opening experience to the challenges that exist in rural health care, especially when it comes to sustaining clinics crucial for health and personal development. After a few days in the village, we hiked back down and were refreshed with a beautiful swim at Wil Falls. Since leaving the village, we’ve started to become familiar with the busiest market in Africa, here in Kumasi. While we are here, we’ll be learning more about public health differences between rural and urban areas and participate in presentations that engage our interests further. Over the next few days, our team will have the opportunity to interview HIV positive woman discussing issues of stigma and education in health promotion. Our adventure continues with many more stories of local interactions, busy tro truck rides and plenty of plantain chips! – Maghen Quadrini, West Africa Global Health